Thomas Willett’s review published on Letterboxd:
In the time of getting hyped for The Beguiled, I listened to a Sofia Coppola interview where she mentioned this film. She loved it as an art house film for teens. It made me immediately curious, especially since I exhausted Francis Ford Coppola's golden age films several times over by now, but haven't given his post-Apocalypse Now era its proper due. You have to ask yourself: what would you do if you spent the 70's making some of the greatest cinema of all time? Well, you finally get personal by making two 90-odd minute films based on S.E. Hinton novels starring Matt Dillon in the lead role and release them in the same year.
If this isn't where Schindler's List got the color symbolism idea from, then I would love to see where it came from. Coppola is incredible form, managing to make a story of young male aggression into a film full of rich symbolism that is some of the most visually stimulating work I've seen from him. It's far more interesting than his other retro pastiche Peggy Sue Got Married (which is fun, but doesn't stick the landing). You understand the themes through the powerful visuals. The very name of the film has a powerful subtext that makes the ending all the more inspiring. I admit that the story didn't interest me as much, but it's probably the most that I've been impressed by Coppola's ability to elevate a story.
What is slowly fascinating me about the 80's Coppola is that he is oddly nostalgic. Between this and Peggy Sue, he clearly has a thing for 50's archetypes that he wants to explore. Even The Cotton Club feels like he wanted to say something deeper. I admit that they're not as great as his 70's work, but you try making The Godfather. You feel him exploring his potential without concern, and it's so rewarding. I am curious to watch the other Hinton-based movie (The Outsiders) to see how they compare. In an era where teens were sappy John Hughes preppies, I find something refreshing about Coppola's take. Teens are far more complex than exploring broad social norms. They have existential crises as well, so why not explore it through art?
My only issue? Coppola needed to use Tom Waits better. The man's a legend and, I'm convinced, may be one of the greatest musicians turned actors who doesn't get any credit for his charisma. Even him standing around here is great. Still, I love Coppola's ability to use nepotism properly (Nicolas Cage! Sofia!) and populate this film with a great cast. I could only wish that I had a family dynasty as talented as his.