Risky Business

1983, Movie, R, 98 mins

Review

RISKY BUSINESS
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One of the key films of the 1980s, and proof that a teen sex comedy could merit serious consideration. Smart, stylish, and cynical about the values of its time, this movie aspires to be THE GRADUATE for its generation and it comes pretty close. The affluent teenaged hero is poised on the brink of manhood, eager for the promised pleasures of maturity and fearful of the responsibilities. One wrong step could destroy a potentially bright future. The title refers to both sex and capitalist endeavor; RISKY BUSINESS documents a time in which everything has become a commodity.

Like Fellini's 8 1/2, RISKY BUSINESS begins with a revealing dream of its stymied protagonist. A steamy sexual encounter is nightmarishly transformed into a crucial college entrance examination to which Joel (Tom Cruise) has arrived too late: there will be no future for our young protagonist. Joel, we learn, lives in a fashionable Chicago suburb with his alarmingly straight parents (Nicholas Pryor and Janet Carroll). They go off on a trip leaving their outwardly model son in charge. His thoughts soon turn to sex and the "adult" ads in a local newspaper. After an unsettling initial encounter with a black transvestite, Joel is referred to the services of the spectacular Lana (Rebecca De Mornay), who visits his home and rocks his world. The morning after, the kittenish hooker surveys her upscale surroundings and proposes to Joel a plan that could net them a lot of money. She and her associates have something that the neighborhood boys want and Joel has an empty house where they can all gather. What sounds like a risky but potentially profitable plan is complicated by the intervention of Guido the Killer Pimp (Joe Pantoliano) and the equally frightening interviewer from Princeton University, Mr. Rutherford (Richard Masur).

Cruise is likable and credible in the lead. His youthful nervousness and exuberance in the early part of the film--particularly his starmaking solo dance around the empty house--are joyous to behold. De Mornay is sexy and touching, and Bronson Pinchot and Curtis Armstrong are memorable in supporting roles. Paul Brickman does a slickly professional job directing his own darkly satirical screenplay and Tangerine Dream provide the dreamy electronic score. leave a comment

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