Forgive Rob Reiner for being a bit preoccupied on this early August afternoon. His new movie, Flipped, is getting a test run in three cities and ticket sales will determine how much backing Warner Bros. will give its wider release — or if there will be one.
"You just sit and be very nervous," Reiner says by telephone from Los Angeles, "and wait for people to tell us what kind of business we're doing. We'll have some numbers coming in from Austin (Texas) in about a half-hour, from the early matinees. I'll be very anxious to hear those."
Reiner knows Flipped, a nostalgic 1960s puppy love story, won't have an easy path to theaters since it's everything movie studios think the public doesn't want.
"There are no (celebrity) stars, there are no explosions, no CGI, no action sequences or anything like that," says the director, whose films rarely rely on such hooks. "It's a family comedy-drama that's based in reality, and it's a character-driven story, and those are hard to break through with.
"I did it with The Bucket List, which was very successful, and last year (Warner Bros.) had The Blind Side. It seems like every year those movies happen and everyone says oh, those are anomalies. They never really believe those things can succeed.
"There's a market for films for folks my age and I hope I can keep making them."
Reiner is so convinced that Flipped can resonate with his baby boomer peers that he's showing it on Oct. 2 at AARP's Orlando@50+ convention, just days after Warner Bros. does whatever it decides to do about distribution. (Test run ticket sales were modest on opening weekend, averaging $4,983 per screen. Flipped expands Friday to eight more theaters, none locally.)
LifeTimes spoke with the filmmaker about making movies for grownups these days, why nostalgia works, and his filmography that plays like a baby boomer scrapbook.
What makes Flipped a good choice for Orlando@50+?
This to me is an audience I can relate to, certainly, and that I know is out there ready to go to the movies. I'm now 63, right from the baby boom generation. We're still the largest segment of the population. We're the generation that grew up actually liking to go to the movies and we'd watch the movie, not sit there and text (message) or play a video game.
Some of your movies, almost chronologically, play like stages of baby boom culture, from childhood (Stand by Me) and first love (The Sure Thing) to grownup love (When Harry Met Sally); from developing social values (Ghosts of Mississippi, A Few Good Men) to death's door with The Bucket List. Are you a voice of your generation?
I don't consciously try to represent that because, you know, that would be pretty presumptuous. But I don't find myself atypical of that generation.
When Bill Clinton became the first baby boomer president, that resonated with me. Even though we have a younger president now, and things are marketed particularly to young people, I maintain that there's a huge audience of my generation that are still out there and want to go see movies, and also watch television.
(We) grew up on television when there was no TiVo, no VCRs. If you wanted to watch a show you had to sit there and watch it. We have an attention span that's not as ADD as everything else is these days.
That doesn't fit your style.
No, it doesn't. I'm not a filmmaker like James Cameron (Avatar) or Chris Nolan (Inception) who works in a fantasy, larger-than-life way, playing with realities and that kind of thing. I'm more of a character-based, grounded, you know, more real-world kind of thing. That's all I know. I like to make movies about real human beings who live on Earth, you know? As you get older . . . life becomes more precious, when you realize the finiteness of it. As it becomes more precious, you want to do things that embrace life, that celebrate life, that are life-affirming.
And a nostalgic piece like Flipped helps in achieving that?
I think it does. When you look back it kind of allows you to appreciate your life more, you know? You're embracing all aspects of your life. Of course you want to live in the present and that's more important. But it definitely enriches your life to look back and savor things that you've been through.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at tampabay.com/blogs/movies.