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November 18, 1985 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1985-11-18

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ARTS
Monday, November 18, 1985

The Michigan Daily

Page 5

'Wooden acting muddles teen drama

By Chris Lauer
D ESPITE ALL its efforts at being
a gritty true-to-life bottle-
smashing, head-bashing teen drama,
That Was Then...This Is Now is
nothing more than an excuse for
Emilio Estevez to walk a high
tightrope of dramatic prowess.
Somebody once said that if Pete
Rose were to set up a table and eat
lunch in Riverfront Stadium, 40,000
people would show up to watch. For
all his fluidity of facial expression and
unaffected body control, Estevez
would make a far more interesting
subject. To its credit, That Was Then
at least offers greater dramatic op-
portunities than a lunchtime spread.
Estevez plays Mark Jennings, who
due to the death of his parents, has
grown up in the house of his best
friend, Byron Douglas. Brothers at
heart, Mark and Byron live a life of
prank adventures in a rough east-side
neighborhood of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The "Then" part of the title refers
to their golden "lighten up, dude"
years of early teenage life; the
"Now" part concerns their growing
up and the things that come between
them - a girl and drugs to name a
few.
The story is a modernized version of
S.E. Hinton's 1971 novel of the same
title, adapted for the screen by
Estevez himself.
Though it does have its hard-hitting

dramatic moments, for the most part
That Was Then isn't the true-to-life
teen drama it tries to be. Only Estevez
is firmly in command of a living
breathing character; the other
characters either appear too
sporadically to become familiar to the
audience or they are so badly under-
played they reek of cardboard, wet
even. Only Estevez has the problem of
occasional overacting - repeating
lines for dramatic effect, for example
- apparently because he's the only
one who can act.
Craig Sheffer as Byron, the only
character besides that of Estevez to
have enough screen time to become
dear to the audience, wastes perfectly
good dramatic moments with his
wooden facial expressions (especially
in reaction to the dramatic mountains
that Estevez moves), severely
restricted body movement, and a
monodramatic delivery that ob-
fuscates the character's emotional
complexity.
During the movie I was trying to
decide whether this damping of
emotion by Sheffer was part of his

method of characterization. Two
things suggest it's not:
When Sheffer does attempt a
dramatic moment - as in his sup-
posedly heart wrenching shouting
matches with his girlfriend - he fails
miserably. Sheffer and John Wayne
have the same wooden-expression
problem in dramatic situations.
Even when he's not lamely prof-
fering viseral fare, Sheffer just plain
seems out of place in the movie. I
can't pin it down exactly - but he
seems better suited to play a TV
daytime drama kind of woman-
chasing medical intern at a major
(and thus highly female populated)
hospital. He's got a calculated teen-
magazine god look to him; I wish at
least he's muss his hair a little.
If Sheffer doesn't achieve a living
breathing character, then Kim
Delaney as Byron's girlfriend Cathy
is a mobile stick figure with teeth.
Worse, the movie can't seem to decide
whether Cathy is a major character
or not. She's dangled in front of the
audience so sporadically and so un-
memorably that it takes the whole

4 x
Byron (Craig Sheffer) and Mark (Emilio Estevez) raise hell and grow up
(and apart) in "That Was Then ... This is Now," directed by Gary Lin-
dberg (bottom left).

Easygoing expression bestrides his face

movie to realize that, yes, Delaney's
smile and occasional puppy-dog looks
of concern represent the entirety of
her contribution to the film. Actually
Cathy exists only as something to
come between Byron and Mark; the
smile just makes things a little more
pleasant and a little less awkward.
The large disparity in acting skill is
just too blatant for any chemistry to
work between the three. With Estevez
jamming out dramatic and just plain
fun scenes at an admirably breakneck
pace, Sheffer seeming mostly to wat-
ch, Delaney lost behind the vast
whiteness of her smile, and a host of
minor characters dropping onto the
scene all too intermittently, That Was
Then...This Is Now just goes
through the motions of fine
chemically balanced drama.
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By Chris Lauer
Y ES, EMILIO Estevez is an actor,
a screenwriter, and soon-to-be
director too, but above all he's a per-
son who knows how to express him-
self.
Though Estevez says he's more
wary of the press after the so-called
"Brat Pack" article published in the
New Yorker, in which Estevez and a
group of fellow actor friends were
portrayed in questionably

malevolent terms, he is still open
abut and articulately expressive of
his thoughts and ambitions.
"I'm serious about what I do,"
says Estevez, who stars in the recen-
tly released That Was Ten ... This is
Now, which he adapted himself for
screen from S.E. Hinton's novel of
the same name. "I'm a hard worker.
I'm in love with the work right now."
Estevez, whose face was
catapulted to familiarity by Repo
Man and whose name became a
household word after such movies as

The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo's
Fire, how plans to star in and direct
his own original screenplay, called
Wisdom.
Though he has written three
original screenplays this year, for
now the forte of the 23-year-old
Estevez remains acting.
He professes to rely more on him-
self than any outside influences in
portraying his typically troubled
youth characters. Even James
Dean, who Estevez says played
See VITALITY, Page 6

I I

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