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Suburbia

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Penelope Spheeris was moved to tears at the conclusion of her director’s commentary on the region 1 DVD. She had not seen the movie for some years and is clearly still moved by its ending.



More Trivia from Suburbia
Roger Corman, the man who has spotted and fostered such rich and diverse talents as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron and Ron Howard, discovered a new talent in 1983...

After being immensely impressed with Penelope Spheeris punkumentary ‘The Decline Of Western Civilization’ (1980), he asked her to explore the world of alienated suburban teenagers.

With a small budget and group of punk rock kids with no previous acting experience… in fact the film only uses three professional actors, the film Suburbia was born.

The film starts with Sheila (Clay) hitching a ride with a mother and her baby son. The mother asks the teenage hitcher if she was running away from home, before she can deal with the prying adult the car bursts a tyre. They leave the disabled motor and head for a telephone booth. Whilst Mom is on the phone, a stray, wild Doberman pinscher dog savagely mauls her baby son… shocking, radical start to a movie!

Evan (Coyne) is chillin’ reading his comics when his alcoholic mother comes home after a few post work sharpeners. She goes ballistic because he hasn’t thrown out the trash and she reckons he’s caning her vodka… stored in the oven, of course. After an avalanche of bitter verbal abuse, Evan decides to pack it in and leave home.

He finds himself at a gig featuring punk band DI. The crowd are moshing it up, on the fringes is a ‘valley’ girl… A skinhead approaches and says “I think I’d like to f**k your brains out!” She surprisingly doesn’t go for it and tells him where to go. He just rips the dress off her body, the guys in the mosh pit, rip off her underwear, she stands still on the spot, screaming, surrounded. Eventually the band stop and the club manager pleads for the return of her attire, when it’s not forthcoming he cancels the show.

During the gig someone has spiked Evan’s drink and as everyone leaves the club, he remains on the floor facedown in his own puke, a bouncer leaves his crumpled body in a heap outside.

The film has been running only 15 minutes and we’ve seen a baby boy torn to pieces by ferocious dog and a teenage girl practically gang raped… John Hughes this ain’t!

Jack Didley (Pederson) turns up quarrelling with some chick, in his graffiti covered, battered old car at the club, as everyone is leaving. He spots Evan crashed out and goes and revives the fresh-faced runaway. Hearing that the kid has nowhere to go, Jack sporting a cool red Beret and combat gear…(was this the birth of grunge?) informs that he can crash at the T.R. house, which is based in a deserted, abandoned housing complex lost somewhere in the suburbia of Orange County, LA.

On the way to T.R. house, they go via Joe Schmo’s (great name!) house, a friend of Jack’s who sounds remarkably like Mark Wahlberg… anyway his dad is gay and he needs an alternative place to stay.

The new runaways find that the house is filled with like-minded/blighted youths, all of whom have come from tragic and abusive backgrounds. In order to live at the house, you must be branded with T.R. symbol on the forearm… Joe decides that this is not for him and returns home. But on arrival, seeing his dad ‘carrying on’ with his latest boyfriend, he swiftly about turns and returns to the T.R. house.

The rest of the film follows the assorted posse of teenage misfits as they try, with varying degrees of success, to exorcise their personal demons and live their lives on the fringe of society in punk utopia.

Verdict?

Suburbia is about disaffected youth attempting to find love, unity and creating their own family against the backdrop of antagonistic locals who see T.R. as a threat to their own ‘normality’.

Officer Rennard (Harris) is the black policeman & stepfather of white Jack Didley (Pederson), who plays the films conscious and attempts to bridge the ever widening gap between the punk kids and economically blighted locals, who use T.R. as a excuse to vent their frustrations.

Excellent depiction of the early 80’s punks... the clothes, attitude, and music is accurately portrayed and the story is devoid of any of the usual attributes associated with 80’s movies.

Who said the 80’s was all glamour & gloss...? Anarchy rules!!!

Notice any mistakes? Review

Strengths: Radical, hip, dark, humorous and ultimately tragic story of discarded youth. This is the nihilist punk rock black sheep of 80’s teen movies. Suburbia is what Nirvana was to pop music!

Weaknesses? There are occasions where the dialogue is a bit wooden, due to the kids’ lack of prior acting experience. But I feel this ultimately adds to the realism and charm of the film.

Our rating: 8 out of 10


Review Written by Stuart Fitzgerald:  Contact  |  More Reviews by Stuart Fitzgerald
Suburbia