We all remember being fourteen – what a nightmare it was. For the first time you’re thinking about the big things in life, but you’re still pretty ill-equipped to deal with them. You fancy someone – how on earth do are you going to ask them out? You fall out with your best friend for the first time – how do you get through that awkward moment of reconciliation? Someone secretly signs you up for a mortally dangerous international wizarding tournament – how are you going to survive a one-on-one battle with a Hungarian Horntailed Dragon?
OK, that last one is pretty specific to Harry Potter, but is being fourteen really so different for the world’s most famous wizard? Judging by Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, I’d say… yes and no. When it comes down to it, Hollywood movies are generally pretty good at portraying the teen experience. Perhaps this is because teens are a huge part of their target audience, or perhaps it’s because teenage life is simplistic and full of melodrama – either way, they’ve got it down.
In Harry-Potter And The Goblet Of Fire – as well as, say There’s Something About Mary and American Pie – boys get all flustered about girls and end up making idiots of themselves as a result. In Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, and Grease, and Back To The Future for that matter – geeks blossom on the dance floor. In many Hollywood schools the student community, for about twenty years now, have divided neatly into nerdy types who seem to be fans of The Cure, and belligerent types who seem to be fans of team sports – see Donnie Darko, Edward Scissorhands, and John Hughes films like The Breakfast Club and Pretty In Pink. Hogwarts only bucks that trend because all the witches and wizards look like Cure fans.
At real school of course, some weedy-looking nobodies never turned out to have special powers. Parties generally featured one underage-overdrinker being carried out by their hastily-summoned parents, and it seemed like everybody smoked. You won’t see any of that in this movie, or any other, but there are some things here that are closer to the truth than usual – asking people out and being turned down, leaving that thing you said you’d do til the last possible moment then getting someone else to do it, ill-advised underwear – there’s a classic vest moment from Ron. There’s even someone who likes to get their homework done – bless you Hermione Granger.
But what makes this a really truthful portrayal of teenagers is the overall feel of Harry’s world – it’s pretty much entirely populated by people with bad hair behaving in an embarrassing way. Aaah, sweet memories.