Skipped Parts (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

An unusual movie that functions simultaneously as a member of the coming of age genre and as a parody of the genre, and another case of a pretty good movie that couldn't manage a theatrical release.

Jennifer Jason Leigh plays the daughter of a Southern gentleman with political aspirations, but her free-living sexual lifestyle, her illegitimate son, and her alcoholism present massive political liabilities in his 1963 campaign to become governor of North Carolina, so daddy ships her and her son off to Wyoming on a generous allowance. JJL has no problem making the adjustment, since she can find booze and penises anywhere, but the adjustment proves to be a challenge for her 13 year old son, who is faced with life as the "new kid" in a small town where they think all Southerners are racist morons. This proves especially galling for the lad, since their attitudes toward him and the local Native Americans show that they are the racists, and they are generally pretty moronic, at least as much you might actually expect from a small rural community in 1963!

As the year progresses, he forms a relationship with a local girl. 

"Do you know why we're drawn together?"

"Because we're the only seventh graders that can read?"

The two of them get to talking about sex, and the girl decides that she's going to find out what it's all about so that she'll know how to do it when the time comes, so they start getting it on. She won't allow any kissing or anything. This isn't about making love - it's practice for when the real thing comes along. They even tell the boy's alkie mom about it, and far from disapproving, she tells them there's no harm done since the girl hasn't had her period yet. So the kids keep doing it until they realize that she's pregnant. Oops, mom forgot to tell them that the ovulation occurs before the bleeding, so the girl manages to miss her period before she ever even has one!

Remember that the story occurs in 1963, and abortions were pretty much unheard of then. In a search of a massive geographical area, they finally manage to find one doctor's office that will perform abortions, and that one only does so on Saturday mornings. Given that this one clinic seems to serve the entire Northwestern United States, it's not that much of a surprise that one may run into friends and family there, or at least people who will report a sighting to one's friends and family. It turns out to be traumatic for the kids when they run into the girl's mom, getting her own abortion. It turns out to be even more traumatic when mom is with their hated English teacher - actually the football coach who had to carry a class schedule. 


Jennifer Jason Leigh shows a nipple in a bubble bath.
 By the way, having the coach teach real courses isn't far-fetched at all. I was born in the same year as these kids. In my high school we had two coaches teaching classes for which they had no training. It was history that they taught, not English, so they didn't read right out of the Cliff's notes like the teacher in the movie. Mostly they read the book out loud while the class followed along silently, and they would tell us when to underline something important. Those things would be on the test. I didn't fabricate or exaggerate one word of that.

At the request of some event organizers who had clearly taken leave of their senses, I delivered a long, rambling, allegedly comedic monologue at our 25th high school reunion, and I got a big laugh by mentioning that our gym teacher had a rather unusual way to teach Philosophy.

(Bellowing voice) "All right, gentlemen, position of philosophy assumed! .... Ready! ..... THINK!"

At any rate, the film provides a rather shocking portrayal of the sexual experimentation of the teen years, and the teens' awareness that virtually everything adults tell them is crap. Those are the "skipped parts" that most coming-of-age stories don't mention. You have to admit that is normally a big flaw in coming of age stories. Having grown up in this era, I know full well that we ignored anything our parents told us. We did whatever WE wanted to do and told our parents that we did what THEY wanted us to. This is one of the few times I've seen the teenagers' attitudes at that time portrayed accurately on film. 

In fact, the film is pretty damned good. It remembers the coming-of-age portion of life with all the warts and scars and embarrassments, and not with the glossed-over sentimentalized reminiscences that these stories often contain. I was especially impressed that even though the kids end up having the baby, and liking each other, and the boy thinks that the girl will eventually love him in the "correct" way, and he hopes that maybe she'll even kiss him someday, it is apparent that she will not.

The two kids did a great job, and their sex scenes are handled in good taste. On the other hand, the dialogue is not "handled" at all. The characters say and do things that people really say and do, including the kids and JJL as the outspoken bad-girl alkie mom, all of which you may find offensive if you prefer the normal Hollywood view of the world, which has been sanitized for your protection.

By the way, Drew Barrymore appears in a minor role in the boy's sexual fantasies. I can't recall for sure, but I don't think she has any lines.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen

  • director's commentary

Tuna's comments in yellow:

I found it to be an absolutely delightful coming of age story that never got a theatrical release. The closest film I can compare it with is Mermaids, as they both have a love story involving an eccentric mother, and a young teen coming of age/love plot. This film is far more original, off-beat, and has brilliant dialogue. There was not a flat performance in the entire film, and the photography and art direction were amazingly good for a fairly low budget effort. Especially impressive were the performances by Bug Hall and Misha Barton, 14 and 13 respectively, playing 14 year olds on the cusp of puberty.

The film was shot on location in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (yes Regina rhymes with one of our favorite areas of the female anatomy, which gave the cast giggles every time they pronounced the town name). The actual High School drama coach was cast in the role of the football coach/Englishteacher. Jennifer Jason Leigh's character was modeled after Marilyn Monroe, and Misha's mother, Peggy Lipton, was based in part on Jackey Kennedy. Misha owes some characteristics to The Last Picture Show.

This is a marvelous film, far better than many that do see US releases, and, in fact, better than some Oscar nominees. It had the name cast, but was at least in part teen oriented, but with an R rating, which probably prevented studios from releasing it theatrically. I admit to a pro-coming of age prejudice, but this is an original and very good one.

The Critics Vote

  • no reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 7.9 
  • no theatrical release. Skipped Parts made the rounds at the film festivals and never got a theatrical distribution deal
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Scoopy says C+ possibly better, Tuna says a full B.

Return to the Movie House home page