Outside Providence

Outside Providence, adapted from his own novel by Peter Farelly, with
his brother, Bobby, and directed by Michael Corrente, is better than most of the
other late-summer kid movies, such as Detroit Rock City, The
Adventures of Sebastian Cole
or Teaching Mrs. Tingle. For one thing,
it actually has some sort-of funny lines in it—for example, “You wouldn’t
know a classy broad if she took a dump on your head.” I also like the fact that
it seems to have some sympathy for the boorish father, played by Alec Baldwin,
of the hero, young Timothy Dunphy (Shawn Hatosy), whom his dad calls by the
affectionate nickname of “Dildo.” When the boy runs into a cop car in Pawtucket,
R.I. while high on dope, dad uses a political connection to have him sent not to
a juvenile home but to posh Cornwall Academy in Connecticut. “What’s a prep
school?” Timothy asks, bewildered.

“It’s to prepare you for not gettin’ killed by me,” says Dad.

His settling into Cornwall Prep also has some funny moments, as when his
English teacher asks the boys who their favorite authors are. They answer
variously Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Salinger, Jack London. Poor Dunph, who’s never
read any of them (or anything else much either) replies with what he thinks is a
safe answer: Hamlet. But soon he finds a level on which he can connect with the
other Corwallians, or at least those plugged in to the youth culture of the
1970s, when the film is set. For what all those favorite writers have in common
(Hamlet too, for that matter) is that they cherish the illusion of youth’s
permanence. It is the thing one most notices about all of them: nobody ever
expects to get old — or even, usually, to assume adult responsibilities.

Now this was an attitude that both the sons of privilege and those of toil
had come to embrace by the mid-1970s. In particular, the drug culture at
Cornwall Academy is reminiscent of that in Dazed and Confused. And while
Dunph is learning to read Hemingway and Salinger, his best friend back in
Pawtucket, Drugs Delaney (Jon Abrahams), is laboriously working his way through
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, those authors’ 70s
successor as champion of youthful self-indulgence. Soon enough, Dunph is one of
the gang at Cornwall, just as if he had been born into the prosperous middle
classes like his girlfriend, Jane (Amy Smart) — to whom, when she announces
that she has got into Brown University, he says: “They’ve got one of those in
Providence too, you know.”

In other words, like the Baby Boomer hero he is meant to be, he is frozen
forever into place with the attitudes and values of his moment of golden
youth. Outside Providence, thus has too much in common with the other
kid-flicks really to rise above their level. What used to be known as a
coming-of-age film would now be more accurately described as a
not-coming-of-age film. Dunph and his real life, autobiographical
prototype (the director is said to have chosen the project because he was
the hero) may have been the first of their families to go to college, but I
wonder how proud the families are that even now, a quarter of a century later,
they still have the outlook on life of a college-student? This sensitive,
pot-smoking rebel with a warm heart and no respect for authority or discipline
is a strange creature indeed by the time he reaches his 40s — though, sadly,
he can still get rich making movies which glorify young, sensitive, pot-smoking

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