Friday, 11 November 2016

The Wanderers (1979)

The protagonists of The Wanderers casually use racial slurs that would code them as bad guys in a film made today, and there's a quite uncomfortable scene where they harass women in the street, yet we're still expected to see them as basically sympathetic characters.  No doubt when it was released some four decades ago, their behaviour was viewed much less harshly than it would be today (see, we are making progress as a species!).  These are the disconnects we sometimes face when watching older films.

It is 1963, and "The Wanderers" are a gang of Italian-American high school boys.  Their school days are drawing to an end and the murky challenges of adulthood are looming.  Not, at the start of the film, that most of them are thinking about that.  They've got their minds fully occupied with proving their machismo through the twin mechanisms of violence and sex.

But life, of course, has a habit of happening whether you're planning for it or not, and each of the Wanderers; whether it be Richie deciding between the two women in his life, Joey facing the problem of his violent father, or Turkey with his desperate desire to find somewhere to fit in; will have to make decisions that will profoundly impact their respective futures.  It's not a coincidence that the film is set in 1963, either - this is a time of profound upheaval and change in the United States, mirroring the upheaval and change in the lives of the characters.

With an engaging cast and a stonking 60s soundtrack, The Wanderers is an entertaining coming of age tale with the courage to not give its characters any pat answers to their troubles.  If the opening paragraph didn't put you off (and I understand if it did), then it's worth a look.

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