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‘Twist and Shout’ (NR)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 12, 1987

Just when you thought it was safe to despise all teen-ager movies, along comes "Twist and Shout" to make awkward young faces appealing again.

There's nothing particularly special about the story in Danish director Bille August's film: Two boys come of age -- one through a doomed love affair, the other because of a painful family struggle.

But August has selected kids who resemble human beings -- as opposed to the one-dimensional arrays of Geek, Bully, Tart, Cheerleader and Football Captain assembled by John Hughes, Rob Reiner et al. The guys and gals in "Twist" are gangly, clumsy, nervous and naive. Some look positively stupid -- the girls in juvenile Jackie Kennedy 'dos, the boys in drainpipe trousers. Some of them might even have zit problems. None, in any case, will be featured on the cover of Tiger Beat magazine.

It's 1963. The Beatles are wowing the world. And in a Danish dance hall, teen-age kids are going crazy to a Beatles clone-band playing "Twist and Shout." Bjorn the drummer spots Anna, a curly-haired girl with a Mona Lisa smile. He falls in love. She falls in love. Another youthful affair begins.

Bjorn's friend Erik is infatuated with Kirsten, an intelligent blonde beauty who in turn is doe-eyed for Bjorn. Erik, an amiable guy, is forced to cope daily with domestic angst. His mother suffered a postnatal psychosis and sits, catatonic, in bed. Erik's father keeps her locked in the bedroom, and restricts Erik's social life. He also thwarts Erik's attempts to help his mother out of her depression.

Bjorn himself is jolted into the world of the miserable when he and Anna discover the realities of backroom abortion. After the deed, the lovers part in horror, and Bjorn takes up reluctantly with Kirsten. Both boys eventually stand up to their problems.

But what makes the film eminently likable is not so much the resolution of their dilemmas but the on-screen charisma of the four main players: Adam Tonsberg (Bjorn), Lars Simonsen (Erik), Camille Soeberg (Anna) and Ulrikke Juul Bondo (Kirsten). Bjorn raves like an idiot about his girlfriend (as well as his new Beatles suit). Erik's pale face, one cheek red from the sting of his father's slap, twitches with hurt and anger. And Kirsten, inflamed with jealousy when Bjorn schmoozes with Anna at Kirsten's own party, slaps her hands together and screams out "Time for the snacks!" Or at least that's what the subtitle says; but it ain't the words that count in this movie anyway. It's the music.

"Twist and Shout" is in Danish with subtitles.

Copyright The Washington Post

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