Suburbia aka The Wild Side

Suburbia aka The Wild Side

D: Penelope Spheeris (1983); with Chris Pederson, Jennifer Clay, Flea, Timothy Eric O'Brien, Bill Coyne, Grant Miner.

Not to be confused with the 1997 Richard Linklater/Eric Bogosian collaboration, Spheeris' look at wasted youth in the California 'burbs remains a B-classic. The film is centered on a gaggle of punk rockers known as T.R. (The Rejected) kids, all of whom have fled abusive, dysfunctional families. In some cases, however, the kids are running from what they only perceive to be imperfect middle-class lives (one kid's stepfather is black, another has a homosexual father). Despite rats, mad dogs, and no running water (although it's never explained how they watch TV), life seems to be much better in a slum than with abusive or alcoholic parents. But kids will be kids and eventually their antics get them in trouble with suburban thugs. At times, this seems like a documentary with its low-budget, grainy visuals. Then, the bad acting starts, and we're reminded it's just a cheapo movie. Fortunately, it's also a pretty good movie. Many of the kids seem as if they're actually disgruntled Eighties punks. Even more interesting is the premise that white kids from the 'burbs have pretty tough lives. Such a topic would raise rancor in today's world of equal opportunity cinema, but in the Reagan/Yuppie era, misery was abundant for people of all colors. Look for Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea making his acting debut and check out the hardcore soundtrack. It's definitely a blast from the past as well as an education for people who think Green Day started it all.

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