- Movie Rating -

Vision Quest (1985)

| February 15, 1985

Safe to say that Rocky turned the sports movie into a cottage industry.  Since that movie won Best Picture, you can’t go a month without seeing some reformatting of the formula.  Most of these movies are junk because they miss the point by focusing on the sport and not the people.  Rare exceptions are made, like Breaking Away, Chariots of Fire and The Karate Kid.

Added to that is Vision Quest which takes the sport of high school wrestling and turns it into the personal story of a kid trying to figure himself out.  It’s one of those wonderful human dramas in which you could easily take out the sport of wrestling and you’d still have a good movie.

Matthew Modine plays Lowden Swain, a high school jock who overturns the notion of the typical high school jock.  He’s not a bully, he’s not imposing, he’s not even threatening.  He’s a nice, sensitive guy just at the edge of 17 whose life is simple but whose goals are not – his immediate target is to wrestle Brian Shute (Frank Jasper), famed as the toughest wrestler in the State of Washington – the first time we see him, he’s hauling a log on his shoulders up and down the bleachers.

But that’s the template.  The greatness of Vision Quest is in Lowden’s personal life.  He lives with his single father, works a job as a waiter at a local hotel and suffers all of the growing pains that age 17 is heir to.  Oh!  And he falls in love with Carla (Linda Fiorentino) a beautiful young twenty-something who is staying over as a houseguest until she gets back on her feet after being ripped off.  Her approach to Lowden is, at first, like a dumb kid but she comes to like him and eventually falls for him.

The day-to-day textures are what make this film special.  The people that Lowden meets whether it be his coach, his boss, his dad, his best friend, all are interesting because they seem to have their own agenda, their own life.  They come into Lowden’s orbit not as an inevitability but out of the everyday tempos of life.

I like this movie a lot because it reaches for something unusual.  It isn’t about wrestling.  It is about the awkwardness of adolescence and one kid’s ascendence into a better understanding of himself.  Of course, yes, there’s a big match between Lowden and Shute, but that’s not the point.  The dialogue here is sharp, the characters are sharply drawn and I was thrilled to be in a movie that wanted to be something more than the formula.  This film was a joy to experience.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1985) View IMDB Filed in: Drama