Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1984. American Broadcasting Company, Mercury Productions. Story by Neal Marshall, Screenplay by Garry Marshall, Neal Marshall. Cinematography by James A. Contner. Produced by Michael Phillips. Music by Curt Sobel. Production Design by Lawrence Miller. Costume Design by Ellen Mirojnick. Film Editing by Priscilla Nedd-Friendly. Golden Globe Awards 1984.
The sincerity of this charming comedy is one of its chief surprises, its avoidance of all the painful cliches you expect from it is another. Matt Dillon is a wonderful as a Brooklyn teenager who has graduated high school and isn’t looking forward to the job his plumber father Hector Elizondo has lined up for him, working in the office of one of his clients. When a day of fun at a fancy Long Island beach club sees him offered a job as a parking attendant, Dillon takes it, then when he gets in good with one of the club’s most prominent members (played by an irresistible Richard Crenna), he is promoted to cabana boy. Given that it’s a film centering around teenagers that’s made in the eighties, you expect the usual nonsense, sex with horny older ladies and teen rebellion melodrama, but the screenplay by Garry Marshall and Neal Marshall (no relation) is actually concerned with the process of growing up, and specifically the process of figuring out who to trust and what instincts to follow as the entry point to adulthood. Dillon’s character isn’t an undeserving punk, he’s a good and smart kid that you want to see succeed, so when he makes rash decisions about giving up college and working for Crenna as a car salesman, you share his father’s pain in trying to get through to him without pushing him away. Our hero’s relationship with a delightful Janet Jones, who as Crenna’s niece suggests that the film will get mired in class-warfare romance, is also a wonderful surprise, allowing them a charming summer as lovers and emphasizing the positive aspects of his maturation with her. Beautifully photographed to show an idealized vision of the sixties, the film only falters in its final moments, when the director doesn’t trust the audience enough to get the point of the character’s mental transition and inserts a subplot about toppling the villain in order to really drive the message home. It’s no big deal, however, as whatever charming spell the film has weaved at this point is still well in place until the end credits.