Monday, November 3, 2008
Suburbia (1984, Penelope Spheeris)
Penelope Spheeris' first film, The Decline of Western Civilization, is one of the greatest documentaries of all time. Few other directors have captured a moment in time so perfectly, that moment being the late 70's/early 80's L.A. punk scene. You really felt like you knew the characters and were there. So instead of following The Decline with another documentary, Spheeris did the next best thing: she scooped up some young punks and made a fictional story that itself could be mistaken for a documentary.
Suburbia is about a teenage boy named Evan who runs away from his alcoholic mother to live with a bunch of punks in an old abandoned house. The punks, or T.R. (The Rejected) are generally innocent kids who have no place to go and spend more time defending themselves against small minded jocks and adults than causing real trouble. Surprisingly, one of the only characters to treat them fairly is one of the kids' fathers, who is also a cop. Eventually Evan's young brother Ethan comes to live with them after his mother is arrested for DUI and the two struggle, along with the other T.R., to survive in a violent world where they are outcasts who just don't fit in.
Suburbia is another personal favorite and classic for any punk lover. Spheeris does a great job making her fictional story of rebellious youth feel like a documentary. Yes some of the acting is not very good, but these were kids just plucked off the street to basically play themselves. The story doesn't glorify the punks as being angels, but shows them as they really are: rude, obnoxious and very misunderstood. Another highlight is the concert performances by punk greats D.I., The Vandals and T.S.O.L. Also, look for Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers as Razzle, a punk with a pet rat who likes to destroy stuff.