Cinematical got a letter the other day from a reader named Brad G wondering about coming-of-age films. Specifically he and his friends were attempting to define a single film as the best representation of their generation, which he recognizes as part Generation Y, part "Apatow Generation." The branding of his age group with that filmmaker is interesting because Judd Apatow did make two great coming-of-age TV series (Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared) that would apply to Brad's generation. Yet he also produced modern versions of the coming-of-age genre, like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Step Brothers, which appropriate the genre for adults in arrested development.
For some reason, the last decade has been quite selfish in terms of the genre. In the past, coming-of-age movies were made by nostalgic filmmakers, which is why a lot of the greats of the genre (American Graffiti, Dazed and Confused, Stand by Me) are period works initially representing the previous generation, but could be applied to and adapted as a representation for the present generation. Or we had someone like John Hughes, who could tap into contemporary adolescence well enough to give Generation X representations like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club.
But now most coming-of-age movies are strictly for the generation making them. In addition to man-child movies like those mentioned above, there's the genre I call homecoming-of-age films, which include twenty- and thirty-something characters going through a second (or late) coming of age after returning home for whatever reason (parent's illness or death, financial reasons, etc.). Think of films like Garden State, Elizabethtown and even the slightly qualifiable new film Greenberg. They're mostly a product of the 2000s trend of people moving back in with their parents, a trend that introduced words like "adultolescent" into our culture. Then again, you could call The Graduate a homecoming-of-age film, and that was made decades ago. And the next generation also had post-college movies labeled coming-of-age, like St. Elmo's Fire and Reality Bites.