THE PRINCE OF PENNSYLVANIA
US, 1988, 87 minutes, Colour.
Keanu Reeves, Fred Ward, Bonnie Bedelia, Amy Madigan.
Directed by Ron Nyswaner.
The Prince of Pennsylvania was written and directed by Ron Nyswaner (screenplay for Smithereens and Mrs Soffel).
It is a story of a young man of the '80s, trapped in a Pennsylvania town and the mining atmosphere, his rebellion against his parents and the way of life in the town. His parents were products of the '60s - and there are comparisons between the attitudes of freedom in the '60s and those in the '80s.
The film is quite well acted and has a strong cast with Fred Ward and Bonnie Bedelia as the parents and Keanu Reeves, in a very early role, as the rebellious young man. Amy Madigan is a sympathetic older woman in the town.
The material is not particularly new - but it is a well-drawn portrait, highlights clashes within families, senses of trust and betrayal - though it moves towards rather melodramatic climaxes.
1.Title, expectations, ironies - and the ending?
2.The atmosphere of the mining town, Pennsylvania, ordinary homes, schools? The credibility of the place and the characters?
3.The atmosphere, the '80s, the range of songs and music? The background of the '60s and rebellion - into the '80s? Attitudes of change? Conservative attitudes?
4.The portrait of Rupert: the alienated young man, his moving towards being a rebel? The detail of home life? His hopes and ambitions? His relationship with his mother, the discovery of her affair? His reaction to his father, not going to work in the mine? His father buying the land - and the image of the king and queen and the inheritance of the Prince of Pennsylvania? The fire in the mine and his reaction? His father discovering the truth, his physical abuse of his wife? Rupert and his fighting with his father? The friendship with Carla, going to visit her, talking things over? Her policeman lover? His throwing the oil can through the window? The growing alienation, the encounter with the bikers and the friendship, the difficulties of the dance - and his being beaten by the school friends? His going to Carla for help, the sexual encounter? His growing understanding of himself, his wanting to get away? His having to work in the mine as a punishment? The decision for the kidnapping, getting Carla's help - and understanding her background and her story, especially about the child? Getting the father, hiding him? The truth about the sale of the land, searching for the money? Confrontation with his father, the gas leak - and his father helping him to escape? The return home, his being handcuffed? His getting away, the meeting with Carla and Joe - but going off by himself, meeting the biker girl? His future? The alienated youth of the '80s?
5.The picture of family life, Pam and Gary and their relationship, Pam and her dissatisfaction, her affair? His work in the mines? His hopes, the land? His discovering the truth about his wife, fighting with her, the clashes with his son, making him work in the mine as punishment? Audience sympathies for him or not? His being kidnapped, held, the truth about the land, the gas leak - and the escape? His domination of his son - but losing him?
6.Carla and Joe, her work in the diner, a free spirit, her relationship with Joe and the story of the baby? Helping Rupert, the sexual encounter? The decision to participate in the kidnapping, her practical help? The end with Carla and Joe going to seek the child?
7.The classmates, their own experiences in the town, relationship with Rupert, the dance - and beating him?
8.The bikers, their sense of freedom - the tradition of easy riders? Rupert's encounters and his decision to go away with them?
9.The background of the '80s, the Reagan years - and the conservative tone, the reaction against the '60s and '70s? Rupert and his confusion and self-assertion?