Both now and then, Roberta and Sam were clearly in love.
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For every 50 “let’s go on a great adventure and learn more about ourselves” coming-of-age movies for boys, girls get either one princess movie, one Lifetime movie about 1980s eating disorders, or one movie about how hot 13 year-old girls find 50 year-old men (correct answer is actually “not remotely hot” and also super illegal/disturbing).
By this logic, 1995’s Now & Then should never have existed. The fact that this movie managed to have an all-female preteen cast (not counting Devon Sawa, whose sole purpose is to be dreamy and kiss poorly) and not focus on boys, lip gloss, and cattiness, is amazing. The fact that it instead sets it’s sights on murder, smoking cigarettes with Vietnam vets, treehouse fundraising, and road trips on bikes kind of blows my mind.
If you haven’t seen it, the movie centers around four childhood friends, Samantha, Roberta, Chrissy, and Teeny, who in the summer of 1970 are 11 or 12 years-old, and desperately want to buy a treehouse where they can all hang out and avoid boys. And weirdly, no, that is not the gay part. It’s just the “these girls are awesome” part.
Anyway, one night the girls sneak into a cemetery to perform a séance (because apparently every 10-year-old girl was doing that except me), and they stumble upon a gravestone that’s been cracked down the middle, presumably by their excellent séance skills. They’re lead to believe they have resurrected the spirit of a young boy named Dear Johnny.
The ensemble cast is seriously outstanding, but the most interesting part of the movie for me was always the relationship between Roberta and Sam.
Now, since this is one of those movies that starts off in the ‘90s and flashes back to 1970, the modern day, presumably Teva-wearing would-be couple you see before you seems like a classic example of Two Same Sex Friends Who Were Into Each Other Before That Was Cool So They Grew Up And Tried To Forget About It And Be Straight.
But let’s forget what wasn’t, and focus on what could’ve been.
Roberta grew up with all boys and lost her mother at an early age, so her hatred of looking “like a girl” and binding her rapidly growing breasts is painted as a tomboy thing – which for lots of women it is. But when you add in matching Keds and headbands and a scene like this, I’m calling it.
Like many budding lesbian relationships, Sam and Roberta’s attraction to each other is all about the little things they don’t say and don’t do. And sometimes it’s about Sam beating the shit out of a sexist 10-year-old because nobody messes with her girl.
My heart is seriously 4,000 times its actual size right now. If that isn’t a swelling romantic moment, I don’t know what is.
The fact that they never got together, not even years later, frustrated me to no end, so I had to find out if I was the only one who thought there was something going on there.
According to IMDd, the chest-binding, grossed-out-by-kissing-Devon Sawa character of Roberta was originally supposed to be a lesbian but some Hollywood moron wouldn't have any of it, so they threw in a line (post-production!) about her growing up to lead an "alternative lifestyle," meaning she ”lives in sin with her boyfriend.” Yeah.
So because of that, we are left with this one interaction at the end of the movie between Adult Sam (Demi Moore) and Adult Roberta (Rosie O’Donnell)
Are you freaking kidding me???? Just live together and make jam on the coast of Maine already!!!!