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Vitamin Q: the book!

~ Tuesday, July 22, 2003

The basic ingredients of American 'coming of age' films:

* A voiceover by the main character at the start of the film ("That was the summer I was fourteen years old...) as the camera follows them cycling along a street, standing up on the pedals.

* Perfect summer weather, bar one terrible storm.

* A massive unrequited crush on someone way, way out of the main character's league, who will look at them with renewed interest ten minutes before the end of the film.

*Two cars full of teenagers pulling up alongside each other at some red lights, and a whole lot of threatening eye contact.

* A dog that is never on a lead, knows loads of tricks and can put its head on one side.

*A bitchy girl who is haughtily beautiful, with a coterie of henchwomen, each uglier than the next, who will at some point all be soaked in some kind of liquid.

* A mom who only ever comes in with groceries and or goes out to dinner, conveniently leaving the house empty for teenage mayhem. Sometimes she will put on make-up, although she is already wearing lots.

*An emotionally absent father, prone to making stilted conversation and talking off his glasses to polish them.

* A crucial sports fixture. One point needed in the final minute. An unlikely hero hoisted on the shoulders of his team-mates.

*A geeky girl who is actually flawless, but has braces like oil rigs on her teeth and large bunches.

*A geeky boy in glasses who walks leaning forwards from the waist and regularly falls over.

*Small stones thrown at a window which is soon escaped from via the branches of a tall tree.

*An improbable gadget wired up by the geeks to soak, trip, or strip clothes from the bully gang.

*Parents looking with concern at a door slamming behind their teenage offspring and then at each other in silence. They will be holding cutlery above an uneaten meal. They just don't understand.

* Social humiliation - like tissue paper falling out of a bra - followed by a sprint down a locker-lined corridor and a shot over the walls of a toilet cubicle down onto sobbing girl.

* Fluffy jumpers, usually accessorised with a pile of books clasped close to budding teenage breasts.

* A dead body. And nobody must know.

*An older tearaway character with a flash motor, James Dean hair, a leather jacket, and a hidden heart of gold.

*A test of friendship, like a bitter row where one of the friends storms off, usually into a dangerous situation like driving towards a canyon with a missing bridge.

*The local cop with mirror shades and thick tash who glowers from beneath his peaked cop-cap. Will later drive into fire hydrant causing it to gush.

*A nasty sibling who is really mean but manages not to get into trouble. Usually seen menacingly thumping a baseball mitt if male or going out to the Prom with a smug expression if female.

*A wise character with an old spirit even if not actually old, often a worn-down waitress or janitor, who watches proceedings and occasionally comments sagely on them while shaking head.

*A soundtrack involving soul staples.

*Cheerleaders and all the complex social hierarchy they imply.

*An embittered sports coach eventually revealed to be a bullying fraud, resulting in school sports star being emotionally crushed by loss of father figure.

* A yearning shot of a smiling girl walking in slo-mo from left to right, her pony tail bobbing in the sunshine, in the company of Butch / Brad / Brawn / Brick, the spunk on the high school football team. She will glance over her shoulder at the star-struck central character.

*A bicycle chase.

* Hilarious dining room incident involving the central character, a sporty jock (if main character is male) or head cheerleader (if main character is female) and a milk carton, swiftly followed by extreme physical pain and / or severe humiliation.

*Milk carton incident duly noted by good-natured and rather shy girl / boy who feels sorry for our hero / heroine.

*Shy person and main character collide coming round a corner, scattering their school books all over the floor; much bending down, apologising and awkward silences ensue, but love is in their eyes.

*A voiceover by the main character at the end of the film as the camera pans up and away from the street where it all began.

Source: by Jo, Marco, Lee, Miranda, Chris and Roddy (thanks folks)

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