An underrated cult classic based on a novel of the same name by Laird Koenig.
Frank Hallet (Martin Sheen) is a mixture of creepy lecherousness and silken charm with a voice that puts me in mind of a cat's claw snagging nylon. His mother, Cora Hallet (Alexis Smith), is an interfering tightly-wrapped WASP who views children, particularly confident non-obsequious Rynn, as annoying nuisances. Watching Rynn (Jodie Foster) go toe-to-toe with her and get the upper hand is a delight and Rynn knows exactly where Cora's achilles heel is in the form of her son Frank's hinted at indiscretions with young girls. When Rynn hits the mark (and she does several times) Cora is visibly shaken as her pretentious respectability shows its fragility. It matters very much to Cora what people in the community (other WASPs) think of her. The dialogue is carefully assembled and Jodie shows remarkable skill and rare talent, thank goodness she decided to stay in the film business and with few exceptions delight audiences as an adult also.
Mort Shuman's (slightly porn-groove) soundtrack is a little cheesy - though probably not for the time - but his portrayal of Miglioritti made up for it. Scott Jacoby was too old for the role but it might have been difficult to find someone the right age to show the elan he did. His character was good for Rynn who showed that she could not only look after herself but also after Mario. There are some touchingly close and tender scenes that might make some people today feel uncomfortable. In my opinion they were germane to the plot and certainly garnered my sympathy for the two young lovers.
My only gripe is an unnecessary 'nude' scene (doubled for by Jodie's sister Connie). First, Californian tan-lines are unlikely to be visible on someone in the depths of a New England winter. Second, Jodie fought against the scene being included and was quite upset about it and concerned that people would think it was her. Third, it added nothing useful to the plot or the film and today that scene would never make it past the screenwriter/director.
The film differs significantly from the novel in that the film shows Rynn as an accidental killer which was cleverly continued to the ending when Frank says to her "You know how to survive, don't you." to which she says to herself, as she adds cyanide to her own cup, "I thought I did."
It's a fine example of Jodie's precocious character and prodigious talent; at the tender age of 13 she could fill her role next to very strong adult players. This is a real find if, like me, you are an admirer of hers and want to marvel at her wise-beyond-years assurance.