MovieChat Forums > Four FriendsĀ (1981) Discussion > A theory about why some of us love 'Four...

A theory about why some of us love 'Four Friends' and some of us don't


I did not like FOUR FRIENDS. I thought I would.

I was born in 1984. But I love most pop culture related to the '60s. I love music producer Joe Boyd's book WHITE BICYCLES not as much for all of his anecdotes about rock musicians as for his accounts of every day life in the '60s and how different it was and what he liked about it. I was very moved by it.

That's just one excellent example of how much I've related to that decade.

I just plain didn't connect with FOUR FRIENDS.

It rang so false with me that I'm beginning to think you had to have been alive in the '60s to connect with it. I'm beginning to think that it has a verisimilitude to the REAL '60s that manages to make it immune to any other possible weaknesses it might contain.

So let's do an experiment: say when you were born, if you felt a connection to FOUR FRIENDS, and why did you or why did you not?

reply

I was born in 1945 and grew up in Michigan. I really like "Four Friends" and in some ways I feel it's a movie about me. It has its flaws, but I'm willing to overlook them and enjoy a moving story about people coming of age and finding themselves with the backdrop of social issues of the time.

reply

I'm of the 60's US generation and found a lot of it to ring true to the time period. I can't really explain it though.

Your analysis is spot on in my estimation.

That was really a long time ago (40+ years) and people who lived it are starting to die off. Soon enough it will be like talking or writing about the WW 1 period in Great Britain or WW 2 periods in GB or the US. There are or will be none or few who remember it from first hand experience.

reply

I was born in 1948 and lived through the late 60s in college, where we had our share of protests, drug use, rock concerts, and so forth. I like the movie, though with reservations.

First of all, the weird 60s stuff didn't happen in the early 1960s, when the main characters are in high school. I think they graduated in 1961. That was still a very tame time - at least in comparison with what was to come. The scene early on at "career day 1961" where the kids have a protest and get up and march around, seemed totally unreal to me. Also, Georgia's actions in 1961 seemed way out of touch with reality. People in the midwest (and most other places) were much more reserved then.

The writer tries to cram a lot of the 1960s world into this one movie, and have the four friends experience all of it, and at the same time grow up over a nine year period. I guess that's "poetic license," but it's just too much, too unreal.

- henry

reply

The writer tries to cram a lot of the 1960s world into this one movie, and have the four friends experience all of it, and at the same time grow up over a nine year period. I guess that's "poetic license," but it's just too much, too unreal


I haven't seen the movie in about 15 years and when it was on, it was on late night TV, so my critical analysis was suspended. As far as the time periods are concerned, lewis-51 is right. The protests didn't really start until about 1964. Yes, there were civil rights marches, etc., early on in the '60's, but they didn't involve or affect most young people until the mid '60's.

Your last line about "poetic license" is correct, but "poetic license" is what movies are all about. Otherwise we would all be watching documentries and any film fiction would be banned.

reply

I enjoyed this film and found it more believable than 'A Small Circle Friends', which came out around the same time with almost the same subject matter. And I'd much rather have Georgia running through my head than A Total Eclipse Of The Heart.


And I'll be there
To shine in your Japan
To sparkle in your China
Yes I'll be there...

reply

I agree with lewis-51. I was born in 1944. Was 16 in 1960. Grew up in San Francisco and was in my first year of University (U. of Santa Clara) in Sept 1962. And none of the things that the ''60's'' is known for was happening yet at that time. Yes, the ''hippy movement'' was just beginning, but these were artists who had moved into a semi rundown and somewhat dangerous district of SF and had set up shop. They had shops where they sold their art and their crafts and they also believed in free sexual expression (free love) and the use of recreational drugs and ''do your own thing.'' They weren't protestors. They had a vision they were trying to live -- the artists' community. They were peaceful people and their presence was helpful in making the district much safer than it had been prior to their presence. I talked to elderly people who had lived in the Haight-Ashbury district for years who felt that for the first time they could walk the streets without being fearful.
Even though this movement was already beginning in '62, the ''heavy'' stuff didn't begin until later. As word of the hippy movement spread around the country, young people began to ''drop out'' and make their way to SF. But the dropouts didn't have a vision and each new wave that arrived in the city was less productive. The original ''hippies'' after a while moved out and went to places like Santa Cruz and Ben Lomond, Calfornia to set up shop and the Haight became based more and more on a mindless hedonism.
In the meantime, at Universities and colleges around the country, there was growing disillusionment provoked by a senseless war in Vietnam and the lack of civil rights for everybody. Young people did not want to have to go kill and/or be killed in an ideal-less, self serving and immoral war, and they were, IMHO, right (of course I was one of them). Dropping out, turning on and tuning in was really a form of rebellion against the moral hypocrisy of a society that could support war and inequality. But the real struggle didn't start until around 1964-65 and continued through the late 60s. It was then that student organizations like SDS and SNCC and the Yippies came into their own and protesting became organized. So at least with respect to its timing, Four Friends is inaccurate. I don't know why Steve Tesich just didn't just set it a few years later than he did.
But who cares? This is just a technicality and it doesn't detract from the essential quality of this film at all. Because even if the timing is out of synch, it manages to depict many of the germain elements that I remember from the 60s and I can relate to it for this reason. But the real strength of this film is the way it expresses the emotional journey of the main characters -- young people just trying to find themselves and their place in the world and understand their relationships to each other. It was moving. And with respect to this it could have been set in any modern time frame. It was with respect to this emotional struggle that it spoke to me and touched me. I was especially touched by the relationship between Danilo and his father and was especially touched by the tender scene in which it finally resolved itself. I grew up in the home of my grandparents who were from Italy. He who has had a similar experience knows what it means to try and reconcile a ''new world'' mentality with an ''old world'' mentality.
If you want to see a film that depicts was happening, for the most part, with teenagers in California in 1961/62 the film to see is American Graffitti. The publicity for this film asked ''Where were you in '62?'' Well, I was there and I was doing exactly what the characters in this film were doing.
A film that better depicts the flavor of the late 60s is Across the Universe. I really felt that this film expressed what it was like. The all Beatles soundtrack helped to create the atmosphere. While the songs in Four Friends may have been appropriate to 1961, it was not appropriate to the events that were depicted. Where were the Doors, The Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles, Dylan, Baez, etc. The events of the middle to late sixties (that were depicted in Four Friends) were very much intertwined with the music. You had to be there to really understand how the music moved us to do what we did. But then you know what they say, ''If you remember the sixties you weren't there.''

reply

I was born in the 60s and was 15 when this film came out. I remember seeing it all the time on cable in the 80s when there was only HBO and it repeated movies frequently. I saw it many times. That's why I love it. Great memories of that era. I also love the way she always called everyone "kiddo."

reply

I love this film, and yet I cannot really explain why. I like the love story between the two main characters, and I like the episodic nature of the film and the different experiences they go through - the happy ones, the sad ones, the bizarre ones.

I think I also like it because it doesn't rely so much on events and music to create the '60s but its characters.

It's very entertaining.

reply

that's probably why I connect so much to this movie... I was a latchkey kid and this was definitely playing constantly on HBO.
I still rank the wedding scene as one of films most shocking moments... even though the foreshadowing was there.

reply

I am twenty years OLDER than you. I remember when this movie was in heavy HEAVY rotation on HBO. I kept watching it and I kept thinking "This is painful and annoying. What even motivates these people?" I was a kid in the 60s, my parents were hippies. I should understand what it is "about" - but it exemplifies what I did NOT understand about that generation. i also hate The Perfect Woman narratives. I never liked Jules et Jim either.It is all about what they project on her, not about her. Ugh.

Good hypothesis though, but it is important to know that a lot of us who remember the 60s still didn't understand it.

reply

I saw this last night and while I would give it a slight thumbs up, I can see why people would dislike it.

I was born in 1975, but I've seen plenty of movies about the 60's and have no problem relating to the characters any more than I had no problems relating to American Graffiti.

Quite frankly, I thought the fact it was set in the 60's really didn't mean much. I actually thought it was too much of a gimmick, with the rather gratuitous mention of the JFK assasination, and Danny happening to see the moon landing as he's walking by the set. I also thought the crazy party Georgia was at looked more like a disco party.

My real issue with the movie was I felt the title overstated the relationship between the characters. This is mainly the story of Danny, and the other two guys are just tossed in there. I got no sense as to why Georgia would marry David, other than she was a flake. Also, the relationship with the roommate's sister was weird. Why did Danny fall in love and marry her? She had about TWO lines in the whole movie and could have played by a department store dummy. The wedding shooting scene was so melodramatic and out of left field.

Still, I thought the acting was good. Jodi Thelen was interesting, sort of a cross between Anne Hathaway and Marissa Tomei. Her character was annoying though.

reply

I was born in 1962 and caught this at the movies back in 1981. I LOVED it! I went back to see it three times. Like everybody else I don't know why I loved it but I did. It was well-acted, quick-moving and had interesting characters and situations. Of course I'm too young to relate to it but I still enjoyed it. I'm just surprised none of the four main character actors never really hit it big. Thelan, Metzler and Wasson are still around but never became name actors. Huddleston has disppeared completely--the last film he made was in 1998!

reply

I was born in 1953 and am familiar with East Chicago, Ind. I never thought I'd come across another film with as little to do with the 1960s as A Walk on the Moon but now (after my first viewing, 30 years after it came out) I find that not only does Four Friends have nothing to do with the '60s but neither does it have anything to do with East Chicago. Am I supposed to cut Tesich some slack just because his hilarious view of The Harbor is due to all of his knowledge being drawn simply from chatting with kids down at I.U.? 'Sorry, it doesn't work that way. It would make as much sense to say I watched a flick starring Bill Maher tonight.http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0913738/board/nest/22772350

reply

My real issue with the movie was I felt the title overstated the relationship between the characters. This is mainly the story of Danny, and the other two guys are just tossed in there. I got no sense as to why Georgia would marry David, other than she was a flake. Also, the relationship with the roommate's sister was weird. Why did Danny fall in love and marry her? She had about TWO lines in the whole movie and could have played by a department store dummy.

Jodi Thelen...her character was annoying.


Watched this for the first time tonight and the above comments capture my reaction perfectly. Oh, and none of the actors were convincing in the scenes where they were supposed to be high school age. A very disappointing and occasionally even irritating film, and I don't think that's got a thing to do with not having grown up in Chicago in the 60's.

reply

There was a 'magical' element to the 60s that can never be conveyed to anyone who didn't live through it. This movie captures that.

reply

I'm 51, so a little too young to have connected with the turbulent part of the 1960s. (During the Summer of Love, I was playing with my Tinker Toys and electric train set and had never heard of The Beatles.)

This is my take on the film. I don't believe this movie is intended to be "about the '60s." It is not supposed to "capture" that decade. It is, however, a reflection of one man's experience with the '60s. It was written by Steven Tesich, himself a Yugoslavian immigrant, so the character of Danilo probably reflects Mr. Tesich's feelings about America in the 1960s.

He is in love with America from the moment he arrives. He has an almost romantic view of America...the land of freedom and opportunity. Watch the movie again and notice how many shots have an American flag in them. There is even red, white and blue bunting at the Yugoslavian picnic. This character loves America.

He also loves Georgia...young, free, exciting. She is a metaphor for America. Hell, her name is an actual state!...Georgia! It has been suggested on this board that, in the film, she is an unsympathetic characater and a little too wild and kooky for this down-home immigrant boy with Old World values. Yes, that is the point.

Just like America in 1961 (still a relatively new country...not even 200 years old yet), Georgia is young and free and going through some growing pains. America in the 1960s was going through a turbulent time, too. Danilo sees this in Georgia (and in his beloved America), and he doesn't like it. He is horrified. See the look on his face when a burning American flag is dragged across his windshield. See the dirty street hippy drink his coffee and walk away. I'm sure he is thinking, "This is not the America I signed up for."

Danilo TRIES to get with the program. He attempts to embrace the youth protest movement of the day and lead a demonstration at the school job fair. But his heart is not really in it. He's just going through the motions to impress Georgia. For a time, Danilo even rejects America (and Georgia) and embraces his heritage, settling down with a nice Yugoslavian girl. But he always comes back to Georgia. Try as he might, he loves America/Georgia, warts and all.

That, I think, is why some people don't like this film. The standard, go-to reaction to the '60s era that we think we're supposed to have is, "Right on, man...change! Power to the Flower children! Peace, Love and Drugs." But the character of Danilo does not embrace that sentiment. He wants the good, old-fashioned America that was the apple pie of his eye as a young boy. Through his eyes, the Youth Movement is not portrayed here in a flattering way, and I think, for that reason, many people who came of age in that era cannot get behind this film.

So back to my original point, I don't think this film is supposed to capture or document the turbulent 1960s in an historical or accurate fashion. It is, instead, one man's reflection on the 1960s and how he reacted to it.

But remember, this film is not a criticism of 1960s America. Danilo still loves his adopted country, and he still loves Georgia. He just wishes they would both hurry and grow up.

reply

I was born in 1955. I saw this movie when it was originally in the theaters. It moved me like few movies ever have. Forrest Gump moved me similarly. I guess it's the tragedy of the 60s, but a weird type of nostalgic tragedy. As you see, I can't even put it into words.

This is one of favorite movies of all time, I can't believe Jodi Thelen didn't go on toa more famous career.

reply