In The Time Of Motorcycle Boy- S.E. Hinton’s “Rumblefish"
In The Time Of Motorcycle Boy- S.E. Hinton’s “Rumblefish
Rumblefish, starring Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Dennis Hopper with Tom Waits, 1983
“The Wild Ones”, “Easy Rider” those are movies that come readily to mind when one thinks about the freedom of the road- riding high on a motorcycle, and raising hell with the squares come what may. Those were films of desperate alienation and the search for meaning in an earlier, seemingly simpler America. The truth of that last comment may not hold up under closer examination but at least in the realm of motorcycle movies that appears to be true as least as compared with the angst of the film version of S.E. Hinton’s classic tale of teenage alienation, “Rumblefish”.
Here Rusty James (Matt Dillon) is trouble personified, he just rolls into it like magic as he tries to make his way in a world that he did not create and that he barely tolerates. Needless to say this attitude doesn’t stop as the story unfolds and big brother, Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke) comes back to town. From beginning to end Rusty is adrift and it is not at all clear whether he will “learn his lessons” about life, limits and staying the hell out of trouble. It is Hinton’s super-realism that drives the plot but it is director Coppola whose tight shots (using virtually all black and white, a nice touch), and seemingly surreal footage makes this thing visually interesting as well.
In the interest of full disclosure when I was a kid, a somewhat troubled kid to boot, for a minute, I was very, very interested in being a bad motorcycle boy. However, as I have written elsewhere, it seemed to me to take too much effort affect that stance. Reading books was easier for a runt like me. However, during that minute of interest I ran into more than one Rusty James and more than one who, one way or another did not make it.
Note: for those who are interested in seeing the early work of the likes of Nick Cage, Diane Lane, Vincent Spano and others this film is packed with budding stars. Oh, and for the old fogies, motorcycle movies actor personified- Dennis Hopper- is present and accounted for.
Lyrics to Jersey Girl (Tom Waits version) :
got no time for the corner boys, down in the street makin' all that noise,
don't want no whores on eighth avenue, cause tonight i'm gonna be with you.
cause tonight i'm gonna take that ride, across the river to the jersey side,
take my baby to the carnival, and i'll take you on all the rides, sing sha la
la la la la sha la la la.
down the shore everything's alright, you with your baby on a saturday night,
don't you know that all my dreams come true, when i'm walkin' down the street
with you, sing sha la la la la la sha la la la.
you know she thrills me with all her charms, when i'm wrapped up in my
baby's arms, my little angel gives me everything, i know someday that she'll
wear my ring.
so don't bother me cause i got no time, i'm on my way to see that girl of
mine, nothin' else matters in this whole wide world, when you're in love with
a jersey girl, sing sha la la la la la la.
and i call your name, i can't sleep at night, sha la la la la la la.