As baby boomers hit the fortysomething years and careen into a mass mid-life crisis, so too do the movies. Saddled with mortgages and alimony, with age and arthritis creeping up like muggers, the kids aren’t all right anymore. They’re pretty scared, in fact, and Hollywood has been reflecting that fear by subsuming it into jive pop thrillers like The Hand That Rocks The Cradle and, more rarely, by trying to confront it head-on, as in Lawrence Kasdan’s Grand Canyon. If you’re in a perverse frame of mind, these two make a great home-video double bill. And the order in which you watch them — whether you choose Cradle‘s pretestes to ease the realistic jolts of Grand Canyon or prefer Canyon to chase down Cradle‘s safe-as-milk formula — may say more about what you ask from movies than you care to know.
Grand Canyon, with ambitions that dwarf Kasdan’s 1983 look at his generation, The Big Chill, was sneered at by the hip-oisie and generally ignored in movie houses. Canyon should find a bigger audience on video, though, if only because reality has caught up with its earnest, panicked view of modern L.A. life — and with the notion that we have to start fixing things somewhere.
But the L.A. riots have also underscored Canyon‘s essentially upscale shallowness. The director and his cowriter (and wife), Meg Kasdan, round up a fine ensemble cast to represent the black, white, male, and female points of view, but the movie finally sees everything from the Beverly Hills side of the street — the Kasdans’ side. The shootings, the earthquakes, the heart attacks — all the things-fall-apart drama that happens to Mack (Kevin Kline), his wife (Mary McDonnell), his crass producer friend (Steve Martin), and tow-truck operator Simon (Danny Glover) — represent assaults from the outside world, more upsets of the applecart. Nothing’s quite their fault, and the suggestion that it can all be patched up by a symbolic trip to the Grand Canyon is good only for a horselaugh.
Yet for all Canyon‘s blinkered vision, you have to give the Kasdans credit for at least trying to think like grown-ups. Truth be told, I’ll take Canyon‘s jittery worry over the smugly entertaining navel gazing of The Big Chill any day. It beats the tasteful, divisive schlock of The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, too. The Kasdans deserve to keep at it, and maybe in 30 years, when the latest plastic hit thriller concerns a maniac nurse who stalks a retirement community, they’ll still be fretting away with their ensemble dramas. And cutting more deeply. B
Even if you’re not a baby boomer, you’ve probably felt like one, just by watching movies. From the playground fantasy of Peter Pan to the mid-life introspection of Grand Canyon, every stage of the boomers’ lives has dominated the films of its time. In fact, virtually all the zeitgeist-defining movies of the past 40 years have been for, or about, this omnipresent generation.
The Kiddie Years
Proliferation of postwar families fosters glorification of childhood and childlike heroes
Alice In Wonderland(1951)
Peter Pan (1953)
Davy Crockett, King of the of Wild Frontier (1955)
Angst and dippiness compete for the adolescent soul of America
Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1957)
Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)
Coming Of Age
Aimless idealists seek meaning and romance in the Age of Aquarius
The Graduate (1967)
Easy Rider (1969)
Love Story (1970)
Still aimless now-capitalists perform mating rituals
Looking For Mr. Goodbar (1977)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Annie Hall (1977)
Ugly realities of commitment and responsibility invade yuppie love units
An Unmarried Woman (1978)
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)
The Big Chill (1983)
Once-hopeful generation succumbs to animal terror and golf
Grand Canyon (1991)
The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (1992)