Saturday, May 21, 2016


(August 1983, U.S.)

By the time RISKY BUSINESS was released in theaters, I was sixteen years-old and had a better access of going to the movies on my own or with friends and without the constraint of my parent's supervision regarding what movie content I saw and what I didn't. My access to the local movie theaters was also convenient in that those that operated the places were not particularly hard-ass about entry to R-rated movies for kids under the age of seventeen without being accompanied by an adult. This was also the time of the great American teen sex comedy of the 1980s, with former titles like PORKY'S (1981), FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH (1982), SPRING BREAK, MY TUTOR and CLASS (all 1983) already paving the way for many more years of horny high school antics to come. At the time, having absolutely no concept of who Tom Cruise was or would one day become, RISKY BUSINESS seemed merely just another apple in the lot; just something I could have easy access to and perhaps even come away feeling a bit more adult (and a bit more obsessed with trying to lose my own virginity, too!).

Well, as it turned out, while RISKY BUSINESS was everything that I would have expected from the traditional '80s teen sex comedy with its tale of coming of age and loss of sexual innocence, it also covered relevant themes of the decade including materialism and capitalism. Tom Cruise plays normal, all-around good boy high school student Joel Goodson, who lives with his upper-middle class parents in suburban Chicago. His father wants him to attend his alma mater Princeton University, so to better his academic record, Joel reluctantly participates in the school's Future Enterprisers program, an extracurricular activity in which students work in teams to create small businesses and sell their created product. When his parents go out of town for the week, opportunity arises for Joel to say "What the fuck!" and take some chances in life that may bring him much needed experience and, perhaps, even some pussy...if he has the balls to go through with any of it. For starters, it seems good enough to just let loose and play his father's stereo real loud while dancing around to Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" in his pink dress shirt and underwear...

...(a scene which would already make Tom Cruise famous before moving on to TOP GUN and an entire illustrious career!) and, of course, to take the forbidden ride in his father's Porsche 928 (which later accidentally ends up at the bottom of Lake Michigan after he gets stoned!).

Bearing in mind that Joel's top priority is to get laid during his time of privacy, he meets call girl Lana (played by Rebecca De Mornay) who surprises Joel with a service "bill" of three hundred dollars the morning after they've screwed all night long. And really, what could be more American than a scene like this...

After returning from the bank with her money, he finds her gone and so is his mother's expensive Steuben glass egg. In an effort to get the egg back, Joel is now deeply involved in Lana's world of a call girl, including her crazy pimp Guido (played by Joe Pantoliano) and her friends in the business also determined to break away from Guido. Allowing Lana to stay in his house, the two of them come to realize that if they put their heads together, they have the opportunity to make some real cash in just one night (Joel will need it to get his father's Porsche fixed before they get home from their trip). Lana has the friends to provide the services and Joel has a lot of rather horny (and pathetic) friends with cash to spend in order to finally get laid! And so, the respectable high school kid with a bright future has now, for one night, turned into a high profile neighborhood pimp running a popular brothel out of mommy and daddy's suburban home (you seriously gotta love the guy!). The next morning, Joel finds his entire house has been ripped off, furniture and all. When he tries to reach Lana, Guido answers instead and tells Joel that he'll let Joel buy back all of his belongings, including the expensive glass egg that started all of this. Fortunately, Joel has the money from the night before and manages to get everything back and moved back in just as his parents walk in after returning from the airport. And then, as bad luck and seriously-twisted irony would have it, his mother casually notices a small crack in her egg (I've always hated that bitch for completely crushing Joel's efforts and adventures with such a ridiculous observation!). Still, Joel appears to have a bright future ahead of him as a business man because it looks like he'll get into Princeton. Nothing, it seems, effectively seduces a man from the college admissions department like a houseful of beautiful hookers and a young high school kid wearing a pair of shades and lighting up a cigarette who's actually ballsy enough to say "What the fuck!" and make his movie...

(Yes, it would seem that Princeton can use a guy like Joel!)

Though the film was clearly released during the era of the cheap teen sex comedy, I would hardly classify RISKY BUSINESS as cheap. On the contrary, the film carries with it a certain style and intelligent sense of satire. The character of Lana plays out more as smart college girl rather than hooker. The relationship between herself and Joel could quite easily be comparable to that of THE GRADUATE (1967). Paul Brickman's dialogue is highly credible in setting up scenes and the background for relationships and circumstances to come, as well as the laughs the film requires. Tom Cruise was off to a very promising start with the level of energy and enthusiasm he brought to many of his roles in the decades that followed. I cannot help but notice and reflect up a scene at the end of the film where Joel and Lana are sitting in a restaurant wondering where they might be ten years from now, Joel in particular with his head and desire for business. It's interesting when you realize that ten years after RISKY BUSINESS, Tom Cruise starred in THE FIRM (1993) in which he played a successful man in the world of law and business. Now just imagine if Rebecca De Mornay had played his wife in that film instead of Jeanne Tripplehorn. Wow!

Favorite line or dialogue:

Joel Goodson: "Some of the girls are wearing my mother's clothing."
Lana: "What's wrong with that?"
Joel: "I just don't want to spend the rest of my life in analysis."

1 comment:

  1. Joel, you wanna know something? Every now and then say, "What the fuck." "What the fuck" gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future.