Making the Grades
When Adele August (Susan Sarandon) decides she's outgrown the small town life of Wisconsin, she shoves her 14-year-old daughter Ann (Natalie Portman) into their 1978 Mercedes and heads to Beverly Hills. There she hopes to put her master's degree to use and get her daughter onto the silver screen.
But really Adele is an overgrown teenager running away from home -- and her second husband. With only a brief phone call regarding a job and a few dollars in her pocket, her denial of reality is epitomized when her first stop is at the posh Beverly Hills Hotel. Eventually settling for a plain apartment in the flats of Beverly Hills, she's comforted knowing that at least her daughter can attend the coveted Beverly Hills High School.
But Ann has never approved of her mother's impulsive dreams. Wishing she could return to Wisconsin, Ann struggles with the realization that she needs to support her mother despite her flighty and embarrassing personality.
Based on a novel by Mona Simpson, this film's screenplay provides a realistic insight into the relationship between a mother with a bad case of unfulfilled dreams and a daughter who thinks she knows best -- and probably does. Continually wrestling with her mother's expectations of what her daughter should be versus her own desires from life, Portman does a marvelous job portraying the resulting frustrations.
Serious about her education, Ann strikes an admirable balance between raising her mother and maintaining her grades. But after the death of a close relative and the realization that she will never have a relationship with her father, Ann discovers her dreams are perhaps no more realistic than her mother's. In a moment of despair, she turns to a male classmate for the love and affection she yearns for.
Despite Ann's many positive traits, her decision to substitute sex for love and affection sends a strong message to young viewers in similar situations. Unfortunately any alternatives to this age-old problem will be found anywhere but here.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Anywhere But Here.
What are our obligations to each other as parents and children? In your family you may want to discuss the expectations that you share between parents and children.