In the second of this two part list we’re taking a look back, but not too far, at the best contemporary coming of age films. Though all of these films came out before 2005 and one of them hasn’t even been out for a year, it’s most definately not too soon to say that these films will one day become classics and even now they set the bar incredibly high for the coming of age genre and what it can achieve.
Juno is polarizing in that many people love the way writer Diablo Cody writes her films and many despise it. Although it’s clear that all the characters in Juno talk in distinct and somewhat unrealistic ways; I say so what, it’s a movie. Juno took teen pregnancy and turned it into a hell of a good comedy, a moving and sentimental coming of age film, and get this, a Best Picture nomination. Yes, this movie with Michael Cera in gold short-shorts has a Best Picture nomination. Like Saving Private Ryan, Shawshank Redemption, Social Network, etc.
Adverntureland is the kind of film that grows on you. While it might seem a little unfunny at first, it’s because it’s not a traditional comedy. And even still, it is funny. Adventureland gave mainstream audiences their first look at Jesse Eisenberg and also proved how awesome Ryan Reynolds is even when he’s playing an unlikable guy. But aside from all that Adventureland took the 80s, where if we learned anything from the previous list… almost all coming of age films are set, threw in realistic characters that would feel at home in the present, put them in a themepark, and let the magic happen.
3. Let Me In
Apparently number three on all coming of age lists is where a film that doesn’t look like a traditional coming of age film can find a home. This time it’s Let Me In, the horror movie remake from director Matt Reeves based on the original movie and book, Let The Right One In. Although this is technically a movie about vampires the word vampire is never spoken during the course of the film… or maybe it is, like once, but I don’t remember because it’s so unimportant. Either way Let Me In is an incredibly atmospheric, beautifully dark, perfectly shot, incredibly acted, and just all around perfect coming of age film that happens to be about a vampire. So there.
2. Perks of Being a Wallflower
Though Perks is the newest film on this list it’s also one of the best. Taking place in the early 90s, since it seems that many coming of age films need to happen in a different time period, Perks is written and directed by Stephen Chbosky and based on his own book of the same name. In a departure from the “the book is way better than the movie” trope, here both the book and the movie stand up to each other and hold up as something incredibly special. With great performances by Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, and Emma Watson, Perks really is an instant classic in the coming of age genre and it proves that even in today’s cynical world there’s still room for sincerity. But speaking of cynicism…
There’s something about post 2000 coming of age films because almost all of them are rated R. Though none of the classic coming of age films in the previous list were, it seems to be a sign of the times. Maybe in the 80s you could have a bunch of teenagers being all polite to their elders, but now, if someone isn’t dropping F-bombs every minute and talking about having sex with every last girl in sight, then something is up. Luckily Superbad took this trend, elevated it to new heights, and created the perfect contemporary coming of age film. Starring Michael Cera (again!) and Jonah Hill, Superbad is laugh out loud funny, it’s quotable as all hell, and yes, it still manages to be sweet and sentimental. But fuck all that; it’s really just the perfect movie.