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[Article] – Stranger Things: The Movie We’ve Waited 30 Years To See

 

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Posted August 10, 2016 by

 
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This summer has been a box office letdown and possibly the worst summer that the box office has seen in decades. The tentpoles that would have boosted the summer were released in the first quarter and shifted numbers. The movie that has stolen the summer and taken the world by storm, however, was not released into theaters. The movie was released into our homes and welcomed like it was an old friend – mainly because it was an old friend. Stranger Things was released by Netflix as an 8 part feature, let’s call it that, and the summer movie feel felt whole again. I will not rehash the entire plot, but if you have not seen Stranger Things here is a brief synopsis. A young boy goes missing in a small Indiana town in 1983. The same night he goes missing a girl shows up and joins his old gang of friends as they try to find him. There is something strange about the girl, as she seems to have telekinetic powers. There is government facility in this town that could be full of secrets, no one knows. As the town looks for this boy, the gang of adolescents look harder and with more heart. Enough said. A gang of adolescents search for their lost friend in 1983. Sold. The homages this movie presents, the acting in every role, and the story all work together to make this the best movie of the year – the better part is that this movie is 8 hours long. A dream that we have all had when we love a movie so much that we do not want it to end.

The plot of the movie is pushed along very easily by the homages that occur during the 8 hour viewing. This movie is like having a friend over that you haven’t seen in years and can pick up right where you left off, but if feels like you are meeting them again for the first time. Movies that everyone has loved since the first time they watched them are movies that are in the heart of the 1980s and powered by the heart and will of a child. E.T., The Goonies, Stand by Me, Jaws, Stephen King’s It, Close Encounters of the Third Kind – These are movies that aren’t just movies, they are experiences. You can never get back the feeling you got when you first watched these classics. That feeling when E.T. lifted the bikes, when you heard that “Goonies never say die,” when we communicated with aliens through music, when Richard Dreyfus recollected his friendships at 12 years old that we never had again, and when the Loser’s Club came face to face with the supernatural clown and defeated it twice – these are the feelings that send us back to a moment in time, a moment that we can remember vividly, an important moment in our lives. It’s like smelling something that sends you back to Grandma’s house on Sundays when you were a child – everyone remembers the cinematic moments. You cannot have moments like this after you watch it for the first time – that is the moment you remember. I have not had moments like this since I was a child and watched these classics. There is something about the heart of an 80s movie or a movie that takes place in the 80s when times were simpler and we seemed to have more will and more power, even as a child. We lose that heart at some point. I gained that heart back and had one of those moments again. I had that moment thanks to Stranger Things and I will never forget the first time I watched this masterpiece and I know history will be kind to this piece of work and it will stand time with the best of them. The movie works very simply because it is very, very good. No questions asked, if there were no references to former movies the movie would still be great. The references that are in the plot make it easier for you to open up to this and welcome it into your heart. I will not hash out specific references because you will feel it when they happen, whether you realize it or not. We have a group of friends, that seem to be 12 years old going on an adventure, that children should never have to go on. We have supernatural forces, government intervention, dead bodies, Winona Ryder, Matthew Modine, Stephen King references everywhere – it is a treasure trove films that have become important to us. The references are not crucial, but the specific shots are what pull you in and move you along so happily in this terribly tragic story. The soundtrack will give you chills every time you hear the music.

The idea of the movie is brilliant, but can the actors pull of the heart that was defined in these 80s classics? Can you get people to believe that children could do this, can this story be believable? Yes, yes, and beyond yes. The casting and acting in this feature are impeccable. We will start with the adults, there are three of them. The mother, the sheriff, and the government employee. Winona Ryder comes out of nowhere with this project and becomes her character. She is the mother of the child that goes missing and it breaks your heart every time we see her. The 80s had limited communication possibilities. There was no internet and no cell phones. They had landlines and face to face communication. We see Winona slip deeper and deeper into what appears to craziness to the world, but we know it is determination to find her son. Winona became this character completely and had me weeping in every scene. When she is finally able to communicate with her son and people are believing her the chills do not stop taking over your body. The sheriff played by David Harbour is spot on. A drunken loner who has a back-story that is just as sad, if not worse, than what is happening in front of us. He is a drunk who has lost everything due to the loss of his child and we can tell he does not put 100% effort into his job. When the lost child becomes close to home and it brings his daughter back to his memory, we get kicked into another gear. The sheriff is the catalyst for the second adventure we go on to find this child. The love of a parent to a child is so brilliantly portrayed by both Ryder and Harbour that you almost forget about the child adventure happening. Matthew Modine brings the 80s government villain back brilliantly. When I saw Matthew Modine’s name in the credits I was excited, but then disappointed because I could not find him in the feature. He was hiding in plain site. I hated his character so much that I was looking beyond who was portraying him. That in itself is a feat of acting that I have not seen in a long time.

Now for the children. This had to be the most crucial and difficult part of casting. How can you make iconic 80s characters prominent in 2016. Stranger Things makes it look easy. These kids look and act exactly how I picture kids in 1983. Noah Schapp plays Will Byers, the boy who goes missing. He is not prominent in the feature due to being the one that is lost. He does give us a great performance from the other dimension. His best performances comes at the end when the rescue happens and he has to bounce back, or do the best he can to bounce back. Lucas who is played by Caleb McLaughlin is the rational one of the group. He is the realist who knows that they have to get things done if they are going to do them. Without this guy there would be no ‘guts’ of the group. He is bold and will stand up to his friends when no one else will. He lights the fire within the group and within the viewer. You are always on his side, even when you know you don’t want to be. Caleb throws every ounce of passion into his performance and you feel it. Natalie Dryer as Nancy Wheeler bucks some stereotypes of 80s roles for promiscuity characters and helps save the day and grow another character. You hate her for what happens to her friend, but fall in love with her for how she attempts to redeem herself. She breaks my heart with her performance and shows me a fantastic heroine. Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers is the perfect weirdo. You know that he isn’t a weirdo, but you cannot help but see what the other characters are saying about him. Charlie Heaton looks the 80s part more than anyone here. I would put him into any 80s movie that you loved or hated and you would never know a difference. That goes for his acting ability and the look he has in Stranger Things. He could stand in and be as good as Johnny Depp or Kevin Bacon. Now for the big shots that came out of this feature. Shannon Purser as Barb. What can you say about Barb? I consider her a mix of Molly Ringwald and Martha Plimpton ala Goonies. She is Nancy’s conscience and should’ve been listened to. Everyone has this friend and she is everyone’s friend. “In a world full of Nancy’s be a Barb” is a statement that would have resonated in the 80s and would still be around today. Gaten Matarazzo is the new iconic 80s character that you will never forget. Mouth and Data from Goonies stood out due to their persona and eccentric qualities – The character Dustin would rival them. The lisp the character has due to not having his front teeth add to the appeal and look of this character. He is the kid that you want to be friends with for comic purposes and for his sense of adventure and brains. He is the utility player that every group needs to function and knows when to lighten the mood. Gaten Matarazzo steals the feature with his comedic timing and his passion for his friends over anything else. Millie Bobby Brown. Say that name over and over because that is all you are going to hear very shortly. Every so often you get a performance out of child that would rival a seasoned actor that has won awards or has been critically acclaimed multiple times. Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven is unmistakably the role that will lead her to awards and should gather her some now. I have not seen a performance like this or felt what I felt during a performance since Leon: The Professional with Natalie Portman. We not only see a character that we first would assume is an alien, we see a child who has never been outside of a laboratory, a child who has never had a friend besides her “papa.” We basic learning of words, food, and learning the word friendship beyond any understand that we can know as children or adults. Her heart for being rescued and loyalty to her friends, even when they leave her behind is beyond comprehension of what we lose as adults or strive for as children. Millie Bobby Brown does not have a lot of lines in this feature – it is all driven by actions and facial emotions. Her hair, outfits, actions, expressions, and even eating habits all work together to create what I would consider a perfect character and a perfect human being. I do not believe another child actor could have pulled this performance off. Millie Bobby Brown is essential to this feature and this world. Millie Bobby Brown is about to be essential to cinema. I repeat the name, because you will be repeating it soon, if you are not already. I do not consider this a television show. I consider this an 8 hour long movie. I know the industry will put it in a television category, so for awards purposes this is Emmy quality work. If she does not win for this performance, there is no justice. If this were a movie, I feel she would be nominated for an Academy Award and it saddens me that this will not happen. I say this with certain performances to certain actors and this is one of those times – Thank you Millie.

Stranger Things has become instantly important in my life. It gave me a feeling that I have not had in a very long time and gave me a time-stamp of when I saw something for the first time. Roger Ebert calls this moment the “E.T. Experience,” which is a first viewing you can only get once and he attributes the movie E.T. to this due to how he felt the first time he watched it. This feature gave me back a piece of my childhood that I thought I could never get back. I want to thank the Duffer Brothers for creating this. I want to thank Netflix for giving it a chance and bringing it to my living room. I do not feel this is a television show – The Duffer Brothers made an 8 hour long 80s movie and refused to cut it and rightfully so. I cannot wait for a sequel and to see where these children end up, but if I never get that, I am okay with it. I have come to peace with the idea that this 8 hours is more than what we would have gotten if it were released into the theaters. I always wanted to sit and watch more Loser’s Club in It, I always wanted to keep going with The Goonies. I finally got to keep going. I am now in the Upside Down waiting for more and just living there knowing it exists. I’ve wanted friends like that again, and now I have them.

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Drew and Champ

Drew Oliver
@DrewyK
Alone In The Theater
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