Jim Dodge (Frank Whaley) has a hard time holding down a job and an even harder time holding back his wild imagination. As a last option, Jim is hired as the night janitor at the local Target. During his first night on the job, he discovers Josie McClellan (Jennifer Connelly), daughter of a local wealthy businessman, also inside the store. As the night goes on, they learn more and more about each other.
I didn’t know anything about Career Opportunities besides the famous shot of Jennifer Connelly riding the penny horse. When I eventually learned what movie that scene was from, and learning it was from a film written by John Hughes no less, I quickly sought it out. That excitement had died down by the time the credits rolled. If I hadn’t known it was written by Hughes going into the film, I would not have believed it if I had learned that piece of information after watching it. Career Opportunities lacks the charm I have come to expect from his scripts. The set up is pretty standard fare for a Hughes’ coming-of-age film: a young man and a young woman who appear to be complete opposites of each other come together and form a bond. However, if this is a story you want to watch from Hughes, there are plenty of his other films that do it better. I will say that Frank Whaley as the fast talking Jim Dodge is a highlight of the movie and has the charisma needed to carry such an intimate movie. On the other hand, Jennifer Connelly, as beautiful as she is, is flat and not very expressive. Whaley and Connelly together are the driving force of Career Opportunities, so to have their chemistry be less than perfect becomes a liability to the film.
I thought Career Opportunities was OK 😐 There’s a standard expected from a film penned by a writer of John Hughes’ caliber. Unfortunately, this film does not fulfill those expectations. While Frank Whaley carries this movie the best that he can, the script and his co-stars don’t quite rise to his level. It’s no surprise that this film has barely been re-released on home video compared to Hughes’ more notable films. There are many movies in his filmography where any one aspect of this film is done better, so if you’re itching for a Hughes’ teen comedy, go watch one of those films instead.
Cast & Crew
Bryan Gordon – Director
John Hughes – Writer
Thomas Newman – Composer
Frank Whaley – Jim Dodge
Jennifer Connelly – Jose McClellan
Dermot Mulroney – Nester Pyle
Kieran Mulroney – Gil Kinney
John M. Jackson – Bud Dodge
Jenny O’Hara – Dotty Dodge
Noble Willingham – Roger Roy McClellan
Barry Corbin – Officer Don
Andrew Winton – Boy #1
Andy Greenway – Boy #2
RonReaco Lee – Boy #3
William Forsythe – Custodian
John Candy – CD Marsh
Welcome to part 2 of the fifth Ultimate Decades Blogathon! Since it is the start of the new decade, this year the blogathon is looking back at the one that just wrapped up: the 2010s. My co-host Kim from Tranquil Dreams shared her kick-off post and her review of The Wandering Earth and discusses the impact streaming services like Netflix have had on international and indie films. Head over there an check that out if you haven’t already. Now it is time for my kick-off post and review of the coming-of-age film Eighth Grade.
Kayla (Elsie Fisher) prepares for her final week of eighth grade.
Before getting into my review, I wanted to highlight some ways that Eighth Grade is an incredible snapshot of the 2010 decade:
Instagram and Snapchat. Maybe these app will still be very popular in the coming decade, but as of early 2020, seeing the characters in this film use Instagram so much is such a 2010s thing. Same with Snapchat, a popular messaging app. Instagram was released in 2010 and Snapchat in 2011, so having them be such a prominent part of the movie instantly places the movie in the 2010 decade.
Every kid has a smart phone. I remember when I received my first cell phone. In high school. Back when all they did was make calls and play the game Snake. In this film, every kid has a cell phone. And not just any cell phone, a smart phone .
BuzzFeed quizzes. How many BuzzFeed quizzes have you seen and/or taken about what kind of pizza topping are you or what character from a specific movie or TV show? The site didn’t begin offering these quizzes until the early- to mid-2010s.
Language and behavior. Every decade has their own slang and behavior quirks. For instance, during a sex education video, the speaker used the phrase “it’s gonna be lit,” which was even out of date by the time this was released in 2018. At one point the principal dabbed, a move made popular by professional football player Cam Newton in 2015. Several teens can be seen doing the floss, a dance move popular among children and teens, which has been seen as early as 2010 but gained popularity in 2017 thanks to “the backpack kid” performing the move on Saturday Night Live.
Strong message about self-image. Numerous coming-of-age films over the decades have dealt with being yourself and being confident in who you are. However, I feel it wasn’t until the 2010s that this genre really dealt with self-love and being positive with your self-image, especially with young women. It’s great to see such an important topic getting the attention it deserves and Eighth Grade is the best of them.
Now bear in mind, some of these items might continue to be popular in the 2020s. So if you’re reading this in the future and are thinking to yourself, “those things are still around,” the reasons I listed above are through the lens of looking at this film in February of 2020, pretty much immediately after the closing of the 2010s. If I’ve learned anything from doing these decade retrospectives for the Ultimate Decades Blogathons, it’s that no two decades are alike and each have their own defining traits.
Every generation has their coming-of-age films. This generation is lucky enough to have Eighth Grade, which honestly probably has the rest of ours beat. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of great coming-of-age films over the years but none have felt as authentic or genuine as Eight Grade. The young Elsie Fisher is the heart and soul of this movie. Under director Bo Burnham’s hand, Fisher gives a performance unexpected from someone of her age. She is awkward, she is funny, and her performance is both unflinchingly pure and awe-inspiring hopeful. I can’t compliment her enough for her acting in this film.
Outside of Fisher, the rest of the cast is there to be either a foil or support for Kayla, Fisher’s character. Every interaction Kayla has with the other characters are there to grow her in some way. Mark, Kayla’s father played by Josh Hamilton, acts as Kayla’s biggest supporter, even if she might not appreciate it at the time. Together, Hamilton and Fisher have one of the most emotionally charged scenes towards the end of the film. Kayla has two antagonists, for a lack of a better term, in Kennedy and Steph, played by Catherine Oliviere and Nora Mullins respectively. They are there to challenge her self-confidence and her image. Later on in the movie, Kayla befriends several high schoolers who become an example of the type of person she could be in just a few years. It is during one scene with one of these high schoolers that was one of the most gut-wrenching and impactful of the entire film for me. Again, it only proved what a capable actress Fisher is. Lastly, there are a couple of Kayla’s crushes thrown in for good measure. By the end of the film Kayla has grown tremendously, even for a film that takes place within the span of a week.
Score can play a big part in creating the emotion. In Eighth Grade, the score behaves rather uniquely. When it’s just Kayla or Kayla is moving or doing something, there is music accompanying it. However, whenever she begins conversing with someone, the score stops. This is a powerful technique because it puts the audience’s full attention on the characters. It is up to the characters alone to carry the movie. With a lesser lead, this could have failed dramatically. Instead, the fantastic performances from Fisher and the rest of the cast are only highlighted, especially during the more intimate moments.
I thought Eighth Grade was GREAT 😀 Bo Burnham’s script and direction is one of the purest explorations of being a teenager I have ever seen in cinema. Elsie Fisher carries the film with her sincere portrayal of Kayla. My only minor gripe is that a couple of the early storylines are dropped part way through as more come up. However, since this this story takes place within a couple of days and not everything in life gets closure quickly, it’s a small annoyance I can overlook. Coming-of-age movies can feel like a dime a dozen but one like Eighth Grade only comes about once a generation and is not worth missing.
Filming began one week after actress Elsie Fisher graduated eighth grade (via IMDb).
Cast & Crew
Bo Burnham – Director / Writer
Anna Meredith – Composer
Elsie Fisher – Kayla Day
Josh Hamilton – Mark Day
Emily Robinson – Olivia
Jake Ryan – Gabe
Daniel Zolghardri – Riley
Fred Hechinger – Trevor
Imani Lewis – Aniyah
Luke Prael – Aiden
Catherine Oliviere – Kennedy
Nora Mullins – Steph
Missy Yagger – Mrs. Graves
Stop by our blogs daily to see who shows up next and what they consider to be the ultimate 2010s film. Use the tag #Ultimate2010s to share your comments or entries for the blogathon on twitter. If you miss any of the entries, Kim is keeping an aggregated list on her site, which you can check out here.
When Juno (Ellen Page) gets pregnant unexpectedly, she decides to put her unborn child up for adoption. While searching for adoptive parents, she finds the couple Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) and Mark (Jason Bateman) Loring and befriends them.
I’ve known of Juno since it came out back in 2007. For one reason or another, I never watched it. However, that has now become one of my biggest regrets of the last twelve years. The only time I have finished a film with a similar feeling was after watching Million Dollar Baby the first time. These are character-driven dramas that have left a lasting impact on me as a cinephile and it’s movies like these that helped influence me to become a movie blogger. If you should take one thing away from this review, it’s that you need to go see Juno immediately if you haven’t seen it at all.
Some movies have characters who are bland and paper-thin, getting very little development or existing only to further the main characters’ story. Other movies have over-the-top characters that feel larger-than-life. However, the best movies are those that have characters the audience can relate to and and connect with. Juno creates these connections with ease. I might not be a woman or know anything about how it feels to be pregnant but I still was able to feel a connection to Juno. Her struggle with her uncertainty, her love for her family, and her feelings to genuinely do what is right are still emotions that I can relate to. To say that I was able to sympathize with a pregnant, teenage girl as an adult male is a true testament to how well written the script by Diablo Cody is.
While a large part of this connectivity comes from the thoughtful, well-written script, another portion comes from Ellen Page as the titular Juno. As early as the first line, she instantly captures your attention and had me laughing. I mean, can you think of a better opening line than “Shut your frickin’ gob!’? From there, she doesn’t let off the charm. From now on, when I think of perfect castings, Ellen Page as Juno will be one of my top examples.
Although I have spent a good chunk of this review so far talking about Ellen Page as Juno, almost all of the same things can be said for the rest of the cast. Late 2000s awkward teen go-to Michael Cera, in one of his first movie roles alongside Superbad, gives a fantastic performance. JK Simmons and Allison Janney as Juno’s father and step-mother respectively are great as her support during this uncertain time in her life. Jason Bateman is more of a comedy actor to me but his dramatic performance as Mark Loring might be one of his best performances I’ve seen. And as always, Jennifer Garner nails her part.
This film is a drama at its core but there is plenty of humor sprinkled throughout. As I said, from literally the first line I was laughing. Ellen Page and Michael Cera bear the brunt of the comedy responsibilities but there are some funny moments from Olivia Thirlby as Juno’s best friend Leah. JK Simmons has some great one-liners as well. The humor may not be laugh-out-loud funny but at the same time, it doesn’t need to be. It’s just the right amount of wit to help connect to the characters and still remain affectionate.
But honestly, Juno‘s greatest strength is how it presents teen pregnancy without becoming preachy. It seems today that teen pregnancy often comes with a negative connotation. Early in the film, Juno decides to get an abortion but then decides against it. Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice, this film doesn’t make an argument for one or the other and it doesn’t demonize nor praise Juno for being a pregnant teen. Instead, it looks at Juno as a pregnant teen and and simply tells a clever and heartfelt story.
I thought Juno was GREAT 😀 The fantastic script is complemented by great casting all around and offers one of the most sincerest stories about teen pregnancy in cinema. If you’ve never seen this before, please be better than me. See it as soon as you can.
The introverted Charlie (Logan Lerman) chronicles his freshman year of high school.
Many high school films follow a similar formula or character arc for the protagonist. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is no different. Main character Charlie (Logan Lerman) is not one of the popular kids and keeps to himself, he finds friends, has good times with those friends, has bad times with those friends, and has clear character growth and learns life lessons by the end of the film. While this may sounds like every coming-of-age movie, the cast and script make it stand out from the crowd. I’m a huge fan of Emma Watson so I’m always excited to see her in a film. Lerman perfectly captures the essence of what it is to be a high schooler and feeling like an outcast. I have only been recently been introduced to Ezra Miller, starring in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Justice League but he is my favorite performance of the film; His chemistry with both Watson and Lerman is fantastic. He is quickly becoming an actor to look out for. Director and writer Stephen Chbosky was also the author of the 1999 novel of the same name that this film is adapting. While I can’t say how it compares to the source material, I can say that it is clear a lot of love and dedication went into translating the book onto the big screen.
I thought The Perks of Being a Wallflower was GOOD 🙂 While on paper in may sound generic, the script and cast make this film a memorable one, particularly Ezra Miller. This has found itself onto my list of quintessential teen movies.
Cast & Crew
Stephen Chbosky – Director / Writer
Michael Brook – Composer
Logan Lerman – Charlie
Emma Watson – Sam
Ezra Miller – Patrick
Mae Whitman – Mary Elizabeth
Erin Wilhelmi – Alice
Paul Rudd – Mr. Anderson
Kate Walsh – Mrs. Kelmeckis
Dylan McDermott – Mr. Kelmeckis
Nina Dobrev – Alice
Zane Holtz – Chris
Nicholas Braun – Ponytail Derek
Melanie Lynskey – Aunt Helen
Johnny Simmons – Brad
Joan Cusack – Dr. Burton