- Movie Rating -

Risky Business (1983)

| August 5, 1983

Risky Business is a sharp rebuke of nearly every horny teen movie that I have endured, movies in which the exploration of sex was a blunt instrument and women were an unexplored territory met with general hostility.  This movie is different.  It sees the problems of male adolescence for all its faults and fumbling misunderstandings but it still does so as a comedy, a good comedy.  Anything less would be unbearable.

The hero is Joel (Tom Cruise) an upper-class white Chicago high school kid whose parents are generally dull but seem to bathe themselves in obscene luxuries – Dad has a sports car and Mom has one of those Knick knacks that cost more than you make in a week.  They have a teenage son who is going through a lot.  He’s got final exams, college prep exams, so naturally his parents head off on vacation.

Joel has his eye on the prize that is Princeton.  It’s a long shot but he’s at least got a meeting with the admissions director.  What he calls friends are not exactly forward-thinking; they are the kinds of guys who believe that even at this tipping point in his life that he should relax and enjoy himself.  He does, and that gets him into trouble.

The trouble is named Lana (Rebecca De Mornay), a prostitute that he hooks up with, partakes of her services and then finds that he cannot pay for afterwhich he makes the mistake of running to the bank to get the money and leaving her unsupervised in the house.  When he returns he finds that Lana is missing, along with Mom’s valuable knickknack is missing.  Before long, he runs headlong into Lana’s pimp Guido (Joe Pantoliano) and Dad’s expensive car takes a dip into Lake Michigan.  In order to fix the situation, he agrees to a scheme with Lana and Guido that turns the house into The Best Little Whorehouse in Chicago.

Okay, so this does not sound like much.  It sounds like the pieces and parts of a thousand other teen sex comedies all about shenanigans and nudity and sitcom pratfalls.  And yes, it has all of these things but the movie is much smarter than that.  The dialogue here is written at a level of realism.  There is a temptation to pad the dialogue with crude one-liners and stupid jokes but this movie reaches into the minds of its characters and really finds an affectation of how people talk.  And it helps to have good actors, especially Tom Cruise who is able to play young, vulnerable and insecure without seeming like a nebbish.  And the treasure of the movie is De Mornay as Lana.  She could have just been a beautiful body, but she is a person, a soul.  There’s a person there.

What I live so much about this movie is that director Paul Brickman takes a simplistic formula and inflates it into something more.  He takes shenanigans and gives them weight.  He takes basic characters and makes them into human beings.  This is an unrealistic situation given weight and feeling.  By the end, the kid has learned something valuable.  How often do you get that?

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1983) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy