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Review: 'Scrapper' is a sort of adolescent coming-of-age story turned upside down

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The dog days of summer bring a movie about a girl's complicated summer. The film is called "Scrapper," and critic Bob Mondello says that's a pretty good description of the child at its center.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Even if her pal Ali is something less than the world's best lookout, 12-year-old Georgie is quite an accomplished bicycle thief.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCRAPPER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Hi. Sorry. That's my bike.

MONDELLO: ...And a bit of a con artist...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCRAPPER")

LOLA CAMPBELL: (As Georgie) Oh, hi there. We were just making sure that all of these bikes were road-safe. Oh, yours isn't, by the way.

MONDELLO: Since Georgie's single mom died a few months back, she's been fending for herself, stealing bikes for rent money while fending off Britain's social services with an assist from a somewhat reluctant convenience store clerk.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCRAPPER")

LOLA: (As Georgie) Josh, could you do me one favor?

JOSHUA FRATER-LOUGHLIN: (As Josh) No more voice recordings.

LOLA: (As Georgie) Aww (ph), but you're so good at them.

FRATER-LOUGHLIN: (As Josh) What do you want me to say?

LOLA: (As Georgie) Georgie is doing great at school. Thanks.

FRATER-LOUGHLIN: (As Josh) Georgie is doing great at school. Thanks.

LOLA: (As Georgie) Say it like you mean it, then.

FRATER-LOUGHLIN: (As Josh) Georgie is doing great at school. Thanks.

LOLA: (As Georgie) Oh, that's amazing. That was so good. We are thinking of getting a hamster.

MONDELLO: When social workers call, this allows Georgie to put her uncle Winston Churchill on the phone.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCRAPPER")

FRATER-LOUGHLIN: (As Josh) We're thinking of getting a hamster.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) A hamster - I mean, great. Yeah. Good for you. Good for you. How's Georgie getting on?

FRATER-LOUGHLIN: (As Josh) We are eating spaghetti bolognese today.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) I find that cheers me up. Yeah.

MONDELLO: Considering she has just lost her mom, Georgie, played with pluck to spare by first-timer Lola Campbell, seems resilient and self-sufficient on her own. There are little tells she's not OK. Her mom's mug's still untouched. The sofa cushions never moved from the way she liked them. But Georgie's read up and figures she's gotten through denial, anger and bargaining and just has two stages of grief to go when a tall stranger...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCRAPPER")

HARRIS DICKINSON: (As Jason) Who's there?

MONDELLO: ...Hops her back wall.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCRAPPER")

LOLA: (As Georgie) What are you doing in my garden?

DICKINSON: (As Jason) Are you Georgie?

LOLA: (As Georgie) Who's asking?

DICKINSON: (As Jason) Jason, your dad.

MONDELLO: The dad who disappeared about the time Georgie was born.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCRAPPER")

DICKINSON: (As Jason) Living on your own, then?

LOLA: (As Georgie) No.

DICKINSON: (As Jason) Can I come in for a chat?

LOLA: (As Georgie) Get out.

DICKINSON: (As Jason) All right. So I'll tell the social there's a 12-year-old living on her own. Shall I?

MONDELLO: He actually doesn't seem a bad sort, as played by lad-like Harris Dickenson. And soon he's cooking - Georgie loses a tooth on some crusty garlic bread - and cleaning and inevitably arguing.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCRAPPER")

LOLA: (As Georgie) What are you here for now?

DICKINSON: (As Jason) I told you. I heard about your mum passing, and I wanted to get to know you.

LOLA: (As Georgie) After 12 years. How come you didn't want to know me 12 years ago?

DICKINSON: (As Jason) Because we were young. We weren't getting along. She told me to leave.

LOLA: (As Georgie) You're a liar.

DICKINSON: (As Jason) I ain't surprised no one stuck around for you. You know that?

MONDELLO: Rough start. But Jason's a decent lookout, and he knows about filing off bike serial numbers. Think Fagin to Georgie's Artful Dodger. I mean, trust him - not even when she's sleeping.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SCRAPPER")

LOLA: (As Georgie) What are you doing?

DICKINSON: (As Jason) Nothing. What are you awake for?

LOLA: (As Georgie) Are you nicking my money?

DICKINSON: (As Jason) What? No. I was looking for your tooth.

LOLA: (As Georgie) Why would I put my teeth underneath my pillow?

DICKINSON: (As Jason) For the tooth fairy.

LOLA: (As Georgie) What?

DICKINSON: (As Jason) Put your teeth under the pillow, and the tooth fairy gives you a couple of quid; don't she?

LOLA: (As Georgie) Does she?

DICKINSON: (As Jason) Yeah.

LOLA: (As Georgie) She's never done that before.

DICKINSON: (As Jason) Really?

LOLA: (As Georgie) She must only like 20 quid then.

MONDELLO: Always working the angles is Georgie. First-time writer-director Charlotte Regan makes it clear that the title "Scrapper" is meant to apply to both the main characters. Her pastel kitchen sink drama is sort of an adolescent coming of age story turned upside down. Jason's the one who needs to grow up and be a father so that Georgie can finally let go and be a kid. I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF YOUTH LAGOON SONG, "17") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
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