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Growing Up in the Movies

Updated September 10, 2010

To coincide with the release of It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Nick Dawson looks at more movies in which teenage protagonists are thrust into the world of grown-ups.

Slide 1: Introduction
Slide 2: The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Slide 3: Life Begins for Andy Hardy (1941)
Slide 4: Los Olvidados (1950)
Slide 5: The 400 Blows (1959)
Slide 6: Harold and Maude (1971)
Slide 7: Stand by Me (1986)
Slide 8: Pump Up the Volume (1990)
Slide 9: Rushmore (1998)
Slide 10: Almost Famous (2001)
Slide 11: Rodger Dodger (2002)
Slide 1: Introduction

Slide 1: Introduction

At the start of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s comedy It’s Kind of a Funny Story, our sad, near-suicidal hero, Craig (Keir Gilchrist) tries to check himself into a teen help center, but gets pushed into the adult psych ward instead. There he finds himself among a dizzying parade of crazy, comic and carelessly groomed adults, a world for which he finds himself ill prepared. He mistakes fellow patient Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) for a doctor who prescribes “bird-dogging chicks” as a cure for his sadness. His elderly roommate barely speaks. Others seem like they can’t stop talking. As Craig tries to figure out who to trust and who to avoid, he unexpectedly in all this chaos finds himself and his future. The short stay at Three North psych ward that moves Craig from troubled teen to hopeful adult is a passage many teens have taken in the movies. Sometimes the journey is a fantasy, like the Technicolor trip that Dorothy is whisked up into in The Wizard of Oz. Sometimes it’s a farce, like in the endless antics Andy Hardy gets himself into as he tries to pass himself off as grown up. Sometimes it’s a tragedy, as with the kids in Buñuel’s Los Olividados, whose childhoods are violently taken from them before they even experience them. And sometimes it’s as subtle and internal as just growing up, as in Pump Up The Volume.  But in all these movies, the young adults who start off confused by the complexities of the adult world end up as adults, ready, for better or worse, to make that world their own.