Angus (film)

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Angus
Directed by Patrick Read Johnson
Produced by Dawn Steel
Written by Jill Gordon
Starring Charlie Talbert
George C. Scott
Kathy Bates
Chris Owen
Ariana Richards
James Van Der Beek
Rita Moreno
Music by David E. Russo
Cinematography Alexander Gruszynski
Edited by Janice Hampton
Production
  company
BBC
Atlas Entertainment
Turner Pictures
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date(s) September 15, 1995
Running time 87 min.
Country United States
United Kingdom
Germany
France
Language English
Budget $1.5 million
Box office $4,821,759

Angus is a 1995 comedy-drama film directed by Patrick Read Johnson and written by Jill Gordon. The majority of Angus was filmed in Owatonna, Minnesota at the Owatonna High School. The film stars Charlie Talbert and James Van Der Beek in their first film roles, as well as Chris Owen, Ariana Richards, and Academy Award winners George C. Scott, Kathy Bates and Rita Moreno.

The film is based on the short story A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune by Chris Crutcher, which is collected in his book Athletic Shorts: Six Short Stories.

Plot[edit]

Angus Bethune (Charlie Talbert) is a teenage boy living in Minnesota, who, despite his talents as a football player and in science class, holds deep insecurities about himself. Since kindergarten, Angus has been regularly harassed by handsome Rick Sanford (James Van Der Beek), and his complacent cohorts, for not being "normal" due to being overweight and is, in their view, "named after a cow". His only friend is Troy Wedberg (Chris Owen), who is also a social outcast like him. Angus also had feelings for Melissa Lefevre (Ariana Richards), though is fearful of expressing it because she is dating Rick. Eventually, tired of the abuse from Rick, Angus applies for a magnet school where he hopes to be free of the constant humiliation. However, well aware of Angus' feelings for Melissa, Rick rigs an election so that Angus and Melissa will dance together in the upcoming freshman Winter Ball as King and Queen, respectively. While confronting Rick about the stunt, Angus is ordered by the principal not to lay a hand on Rick or he would be expelled and lose his chance to go to the magnet school.

To get ready for the dance, Angus gets help from not only Troy, but also his mother Meg (Kathy Bates), and his narcoleptic grandfather, Ivan (George C. Scott). His grandfather tells him about a dance move called the Irish Swoon that he claims is a guaranteed lady-pleaser, but Angus fears that his largeness makes him an inept dancer and would embarrass both him and Melissa. To fix this, Ivan takes Angus to Madame Rulenska (Rita Moreno), where despite Angus's best efforts, he comes out worse than before (and injures the hapless Madame in the process). Later on, despite his request for a black tuxedo and wanting to be normal, Ivan purchases him a plum one and tells him that he can be normal and an individual at the same time. He also tells Angus that running away to another school won't solve anything and that he needs to stand up against Rick while he still can. Ivan also mentions that he doesn't let anyone tell him that his relationship with April(Anna Thomas), is a mistake because she's 30 years younger than him and they see each other as perfect. One day after football practice, Angus opens his locker and sees that his favorite pair of boxers are missing. Angus and Troy learn later with their own eyes that Rick hoisted his boxers up the flagpole for the school to see, which then fly squarely onto passerby Melissa's face. Angus storms home in anger, but Rick and company quickly kidnap Troy. Outside the school, they ask him for anything that would embarrass Angus at the Winter Ball. Troy refuses their request and tries to escape, only to break his arm as he trips to the floor while Rick gives Troy an ultimatum. At home, Meg tells Ivan that having Angus transfer to a magnet school would be for the best. She hates seeing him suffer another day with humiliation and doesn't think her father has the right answers. Ivan tells Meg that letting Angus run away from his bullies to another school is a mistake and that he needs to stop fearing humiliation by standing up for himself. He admitted he never let her run away from her problems and admired how strong she is today.

Meanwhile, Angus helps Ivan prepare for his marriage to April. As Angus waits outside his grandfather's room on the day of the wedding, he confides with him about his love for Melissa. Angus admits he's proud of Ivan because he has the strength to not care if everyone else sees his marriage to April wrong since they love each other. When he tries to wake him, Angus quickly discovers that Ivan has died. Distraught, Angus opts to stay home for a few days trying to cope with his grandfather's death. By that time, fearful that Rick will hurt him even more, Troy gives him the videotape containing the footage of Angus practicing his dancing with an inflatable doll while confessing his feelings for Melissa.

Later that week while cleaning up from the wedding, Angus receives a box from April and opens it, revealing the plum suit that he had earlier rejected which Ivan bought for him regardless. In that moment, he realizes that his grandfather was right all along. Angus needs to stand up for himself and stop fearing Rick or nothing will change. Resolved to grant Ivan's wish to stand up for himself, Angus rejects an interview from the science school he applied to, wears his plum suit and marches to the school gymnasium, where the dance is held. Outside the school gym, Troy warns him to turn around and return home because Rick has something bad planned for him. Angus rebuffs his request, revealing he's sick of enduring humiliation from Rick so he's taking his grandfather's advice by standing up for himself and marches inside anyway. He meets Melissa, and the two converse for the first time. Angus is surprised when Melissa tells him she is nervous because everyone will be staring at them. As they are introduced to the students, Rick plays Troy's videotape on the monitors, and the students are laughing. A humiliated Melissa runs out of the gym in tears and Angus follows her, very infuriated with Troy for betraying him by helping Rick out to humiliate both of them. Outside the gym, he apologizes, but she doesn't blame him. Surprisingly, Melissa shows her disgust with Rick and reveals to Angus that she is bulimic. She also mentions that Rick is very controlling and also abusive towards her and the other students, making them fear him. Angus learns that Melissa likes him because he's kind and respectful of others. Finding common ground, the two return to the gym and dance, even as Melissa helps him out with some of the steps. After the two receive a mild reception from the students, Rick scolds Melissa, while Angus comes to her defense. Rick punches Angus hard and breaks his nose, selfishly telling him that he glad he's leaving this school. However, Angus quickly gets back to his feet and pushes him back making him fall down. He tells Rick off he's not leaving this school and won't tolerate any more of his constant humiliation and shallow ways. It is here that Angus finally confronts him and petitions Rick to look past his so-called idealism of "normal" by looking at the students who are unwantingly ostracized by him for being themselves and are fed up with the humiliation. Rick selfishly refuses to heed his plea to change his attitude by replying that he is normal and is something Angus will never be. Angus adamantly replies "Thank God!" implying he'd rather be true to himself and turns to leave the gym. The students applaud Angus for taking a stand against Rick and he has lost his popularity since the students no longer fear him. Before Angus can leave the gym, he is stopped by Melissa, who says she wants another dance with him. This allows him to enjoy the dance with her.

Immediately after, Angus meets up with Troy and forgives him while offering Troy to dance with him and Melissa. Troy, overjoyed, wheels around and accidentally punches Rick's nose and breaks it, catching the attention of a girl (Lindsay Price) who asks for Troy's name. Soon after, Angus walks Melissa home. She smiles and kisses him on the cheek before going into her house, implying the two may have a relationship. As Angus walks away, Melissa watches him from her bedroom window. In the end, having stood his ground, Angus rejects the offer to transfer and chose to stay in the school he's attending. Rick is suspended from school for his videotape prank against both Angus and Melissa. Though he had his moment, Angus decides to get another one some day.

Cast[edit]

Themes[edit]

During the film, Angus takes counsel from two people: Troy Wedberg, a small and geeky boy who attempts to turn Angus into a "large pathetic virgin with a new look" by giving Angus an edgier style and encouraging him to exercise in hopes that Angus will look more attractive; and Angus' grandfather, an assured yet narcoleptic crank who readies himself to marry a woman thirty years his junior, who encourages Angus to go to the ball by ordering him to stop caring about what everyone else will think of him and his pairing with the popular Melissa. Thus we are introduced to two opposing ideals of which Angus must choose: Adopt a new personality that would give him the long-term acceptance he longs, or overcome his shame and accept himself as a unique individual. The question is exemplified in a scene where Angus, Grampa, and Troy shop in a tuxedo store, where the only suit available in Angus' size comes in the color of plum. Troy mocks the suit ("Put it on a dead guy and bury it.") while Angus begs Grampa to buy a more "socially acceptable" black suit even though all of the store's available black suits fit him too tightly. Grampa, however, insists that the suit will benefit Angus by making him even more "different."

The film also features a recurring symbolism based around an experiment Angus conducts in hopes of getting into the science school. This is introduced in Angus's science class, where he posits that a foreign element introduced into a homogeneous system will be rejected and destroyed. He puts a drop of a red substance into an environment composed solely of a blue substance, and the red element explodes in a puff of smoke. This is later directly related to Angus's own attempts to be himself in the largely homogeneous high school crowd. In one scene, an overhead shot reveals that Angus is the only person wearing red at a pep rally full of students wearing the school color (blue).

At the end of the film, Angus further explains the experiment, in how in some rare situations the red substance is not destroyed by the blue, but overcomes it and radically alters the base which is symbolized by the plum purple tuxedo Angus wears during the climax of the film.

Noteworthy is the performance of newcomer Charlie Talbert, who was scouted in an Illinois Wendy's,[1] as the title character and the interaction between Angus and his grandfather (Scott), whose philosophy can be summed up in his recurring line: "Screw 'em!"

Alternate cut[edit]

Early in production, the film contained scenes wherein Angus's father was gay, reflecting the original story. Producer Dawn Steel at first approved the idea, but upon seeing a test screening she asked director Johnson to cut it. Hence, it is said early in the film that Angus's dad died while he was being born.

In addition, deleted and extended scenes are integrated into the cut-for-television version of the film to make up running time.[2]

Deleted/extended scenes[edit]

  • Extended dialogue between Angus and Troy in the locker room.
  • Scene with Angus helping his grandfather move some of his stuff to April's house.
  • Scene with Angus talking with his grandfather and April at April's house. The scene also shows the grandfather's dance move "the Irish swoon" which is described to Angus earlier in the film.
  • Extended scene where Angus goes to the dancing lesson, including Angus and Troy commenting on the teachers good looks.
  • Scene with Angus and his mom eating Häagen-Dazs ice cream in the kitchen where they talk about the upcoming dance.
  • Extended scene where Angus is trying on suits.
  • Extended scene between Angus and April outside of the house after his grandfather's funeral, where April gives Angus the plum tuxedo and reveals she had set her watch to remember when it was time for grandpa's pills.

Reception[edit]

Some critics consider the film as a superficial after-school special for its familiar underdog story and inherent preachiness. As such, the film scores a 40% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[3] The film was released in a wave of other obesity-related films that came out at the time, notably Heavyweights (1995), which went for mostly comedy, and Heavy (1996), which was a strong drama. Angus straddled the fence between comedy and drama, at points to its detriment to some critics.

However, the film enjoys a cult following amongst viewers.[citation needed] Some reviewers conclude that it more accurately portrays high school life than similar films about adolescence, since it takes a critical view of obesity, bullying, self-esteem, and high school inclusiveness, while highlighting the importance of assuring oneself in an ideologically competitive world. Reviews of note in this camp is Roger Ebert's 3 star review, starting "Here it is at last, at long last, after years and years and years: A movie where the smart fat kid gets the girl and humiliates the football hero."[4]

The film's lead, Charlie Talbert, was also given mixed reviews. Rita Kempley of the Washington Post said "Charlie Talbert, a 16-year-old discovered in line at an Illinois Wendy's, brings neither experience nor charisma to the title role of this stock tale of petty adolescent cruelties."[5] Emanuel Levy, while giving the film a "C", conceded Angus was "played by newcomer Charles M. Talbert with a certain charm."[6] Ebert's review of the film concludes with "Charlie Talbert is a good casting choice for Angus, because he isn't a "sort of" fat kid, like those models in the King Size catalog who look about 12 pounds overweight. He is fat. But he is also smart, likable, resilient and engaging. And he has the gift of deflecting his shortcomings with humor."[4]

Box office[edit]

Angus was released theatrically in North America on Friday, September 15, 1995 on 1,154 screens.[7] Angus debuted in eighth place amidst the crowded box office. It opened against Hackers and Spike Lee's Clockers, while To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, Dangerous Minds, The Usual Suspects and Braveheart were still having a strong showing in box office numbers.[8] To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar ultimately won the weekend with $6,544,960 as it expanded to 1,448 screens.

In its second weekend, Sept 22–24, Angus slipped to twelfth place with $1,314,839 from 1,156 screens, its widest release (a percentage drop of 31.3%). Se7en opened on this weekend and won the box office with $13,949,807 from 2,441 screens.[9]

Availability[edit]

Angus was released on VHS on August 27, 1996 but is currently on moratorium. It was later shown in an edited-for-television form on Turner owned cable television stations.

In 2009, Warner Archive released the film as an official DVD-R.

Soundtrack[edit]

Angus: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album to the film Angus by Various artists
Released August 22, 1995 (1995-08-22)
Recorded March 1993–May 1995
Genre Alternative rock
Length 34:48
Label Warner Bros. Records
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars [10]

The film's soundtrack accurately reflects the melodic ideas prevalent in the alternative rock scene at the time. Most of the bands perform songs that closely resonate with the themes of the film while keeping a fast yet upbeat tone, a sharp departure from the age of grunge, which had just reached its twilight. (It should be noted that Angus' penchant for flannel and denim, as well as his defeatist persona, are concepts more closely associated with grunge.) However, several key songs are absent in the CD that was released, most notably "Fade into You" by Mazzy Star, the song that was played as Angus and Melissa danced, and "Rubella" by the Smoking Popes.

Weezer's initial offering, a song entitled "Wanda (You're My Only Love)" (or sometimes just "Wanda"), was written specifically for the movie but rejected for being "too much of a strict interpretation of the movie" and for not sounding enough like what was expected of Weezer at the time. The previously written, more uptempo "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly" was used instead, and the rejection of the former song was known to have hurt Weezer's singer and songwriter Rivers Cuomo at the time. Though Weezer never properly recorded "Wanda", Cuomo released his 1994 demo of the song (along with the story of the song's submission and rejection) in 2007 on the album Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo.

The unique version of "Am I Wrong" by Love Spit Love, mixing marching band horns into the original version of the song which interplay well with Richard Butler's raw vocals, is one of the more unusual and moving opening title songs in recent film. The film version featured on the soundtrack features the marching band from director Patrick Read Johnson's high school re-mixed with the original studio tracks.

Green Day contributed "J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)", a song written by bassist Mike Dirnt about his friend who died in a car accident when he was 19. This song peaked at number one on the Modern Rock Billboard charts of 1995. This song was later released on their 2001 greatest hits album, International Superhits. Meanwhile, Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong co-produced "Back to You" by the Riverdales with producer Mass Giorgini, which was featured during the dance sequence at the high prom in the film.

The music supervisors for Angus were Elliot Cahn and Jeff Saltzman, who, at the time, also managed two of the soundtrack's artists: Green Day and The Muffs.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "J.A.R. (Jason Andrew Relva)" - Green Day - 2:52
  2. "Jack Names the Planets" - Ash - 3:13
  3. "Enough" - Dance Hall Crashers - 3:01
  4. "Kung Fu" - Ash - 2:17
  5. "Back to You" - Riverdales - 3:33
  6. "Mrs. You and Me" - Smoking Popes - 3:34
  7. "You Gave Your Love to Me Softly" - Weezer - 1:59
  8. "Ain't That Unusual" - Goo Goo Dolls - 3:18
  9. "Funny Face" - The Muffs - 3:21
  10. "White Homes" - Tilt - 2:09
  11. "Deep Water" - Pansy Division - 2:10
  12. "Am I Wrong" - Love Spit Love (Marching band version, similar to its appearance in the film - not labeled as such) - 3:34

References[edit]

External links[edit]