FILMS

Adolescent fantasies

RISKY BUSINESS Directed by Paul Brickman

LAWRENCE O’TOOLE August 15 1983
FILMS

Adolescent fantasies

RISKY BUSINESS Directed by Paul Brickman

LAWRENCE O’TOOLE August 15 1983

Adolescent fantasies

FILMS

RISKY BUSINESS Directed by Paul Brickman

Joel (Tom Cruise), who comes from an upper middle-class Chicago family, is beset by anxieties. He is finishing high school and, pressured by his father to enter Princeton, he wonders what he is going to do with the rest of his life. Joel’s general adolescent anxiety manifests itself specifically in dreams of consummation that end in catastrophe. When his parents go on vacation, leaving him alone in the house, his most cherished fantasy—and worst fears—comes true: he falls in love with a hooker (Rebecca De Mornay), his father’s Porsche slides into Lake Michigan, the house turns into a brothel and he is suspended from school. Risky Business is a delight—an antidote to the asinine aspirations of the Porky's genre.

Brickman has set Joel’s anxious fantasy within the framework of a daydream in order to give the farcical events some credibility. Risky Business has an enjoy ably weightless quality, occurring in slowed dreamtime to an appropriately somnambulistic score. Everything about the film is a little out of whack, especially Lana the hooker, whose behavior seems totally motivated by whim. One minute she has a heart of gold, the next she is an obscure object of desire—she causes the Porsche to end

up in the lake and then sets up the brothel in Joel’s home to pay for the damages. Newcomer De Mornay, who has Mia Farrow’s physical delicacy and Charlotte Rampling’s gimlet eyes and animal sensuality, is never an actual person—she is drawn by Joel’s desires and fleshed out by his fears of what a dream-woman might be. (There is a suggestion that Joel is relating his daydream to an analyst and that all the events in the film are concocted by his overactive imagination.)

Risky Business captures teenage rebellion fantasy as few other movies have. Like a carton of Cracker Jack boxes, the movie is filled with surprises. Making his first meal for himself, Joel unwraps a foul-looking TV dinner, pours himself a glass of Chivas Regal to go with it and mixes in some Coke to give it a fizz. Later, he turns the stereo up full volume and dances around in his shirt and undershorts pretending he is a rock guitarist. When Joel’s father announces to his son, “My house, my rules,” the audience is the on the son’s side. As the gullible, slightly dopey Joel, Tom Cruise gives a sunny performance, beaming with good nature. In his first foray into the tangled job of writing and directing a movie, Paul Brickman has written something sweetly hilarious, then stepped behind the camera and found the crazy, kinetic music in it all.

-LAWRENCE O’TOOLE