Still, there’s nothing idealised about Kaufman and Richard Price’s nostalgia. There are abusive parents; neglected kids; racism; teen pregnancy. In spite of its lighthearted tone, The Wanderers is laced with melancholy, and the occasionally fantastical style acknowledges how much time can alter memory. Kaufman explains, “When you’re small, and you look at big tough guys in the neighborhood, they seem so much more monstrous and gigantic then you later realise they were when you’ve grown up. So, I wanted to get that sort of perspective, which is sort of reality, but is sort of – is the truth factual or is it just the way in which we experience things?”
The conclusion leaves its characters in uncertain territory, on the cusp of adulthood and needing to choose whether to fly the coop or remain fixed within their old-school backgrounds. Nina offers Richie a brief glimpse into an alternative existence: she takes him to see Bob Dylan performing in a bar. But Richie only watches from outside; he doesn’t go in. He and his friends must decide whether to stay in the past or step into the future. And isn’t that the crux of so many coming-of-age stories? Kaufman’s genius lies in matching these boys’ growing pains with the growing pains of a whole nation in the early ‘60s; the result is a film that’s both deeply lovable and genuinely poignant.
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