Movie Matters – E02 – Risky Business (1983)

[00:00.00] JC: Welcome to Just Curious Media. This is Movie Matters and I’m Jason Connell. Today I’m talking about Risky Business, the 1983 coming of age film that launched Tom Cruise to stardom and was written and directed by Paul Brickman. It’s 6.8 rating on IMDb and 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. So this film is such a personal favorite of mine and I revisit it quite often. 

The plot my sound a bit immature; a virgin teenager falls for a hooker, crashes his dad’s Porsche into Lake Michigan, and must become a pimp for the night to pay for the repairs. Now, despite the fact that it’s about teenagers, this film is very much made for adults, as it cover themes such as materialism, loss of innocence, coming of age, capitalism. Brickman even credited Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist, 1970, as a huge influence on the film: “I thought, ‘Why can’t you present that as a film for youth and aspire to that kind of style and still have humor in it?’ That was the test: to meld a darker form of filmmaking with humor. Tone is what I wanted to play with.” 

I must say, I believe Brickman absolutely achieved his vision with an incredibly smart screenplay, great performances, wonderful cinematography, and a timeless score by Tangerine Dream. Now, as for the stars, Tom Cruise was not only perfectly cast, he was electric in this role, playing Joel Goodson — notice the pun on the last name. He was cast in this film while he was making Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders in Tulsa, Oklahoma, my hometown and was going back and forth to LA to read for the director who initially didn’t want him because he saw him in Taps and said, “That guy’s a killer! Go be in Amityville Horror 3, but not in my movie.” 

But the casting director stuck with it, kept presenting Tom Cruise, and eventually he got the role. Thank goodness! Of course, probably the most iconic scene in the whole film is the underwear dance number in which Tom Cruise comes sliding into frame with Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock ‘n Roll. That entire sequence was improvised, which was amazing and it would go on to be mocked in many, many things; SNL, commercials, you name it! And Tom Cruise would actually go on to be nominated for a Golden Globe for this role. Now, obviously in a movie like this you’ve got to have a great counterpart and Rebecca De Mornay is amazing as Lana and their chemistry was magnetic. Without it, this film does not work and Paul Brickman got it right. 

Then you sprinkle in some really good supporting characters like Bronson Pinchot who you may recognize from Perfect Strangers. He played Balki, a very memorable character. There’s also Curtis Armstrong who played Booger from Revenge of the Nerds and of course we can not forget an incredible performance by Joe Pantoliano who we all recognize from The Matrix and Sopranos and many movies. But in this film he plays Guido the killer pimp. Besides all the things that Brickman did right, he had a great team behind him. 

He had producer Steve Tisch, who’s co-owner of the New York Giants. He’s won two Super Bowls, he won an Oscar for producing Forest Gump. He also had Jon Avnet who produced Black Swan, The Mighty Ducks, and it was backed by David Geffen, music mogul and the Geffen Company. They were able to go make the movie they wanted to make and this is what happens when good artists are allowed the freedom and the resources to do so. 

Another thing this film got right was the editing. It was flawless and of course it was in great hands with Richard Chew, who won an Oscar for editing Star Wars and was nominated for editing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A couple of fun facts: the film was originally called White Boys off the Lake. According to Brickman the studio disliked this title as they felt it sounded like an off-Broadway play. Thank goodness they changed the name, and not only changed the name they came up with a perfect name, in my opinion. 

Also, at the big house party scene at the end, if you watch it in slow-mo and you watch very closely, you will see a very young Nicholas Cage, Jason Gedrick from Iron Eagle, and Megan Mullally, from Will & Grace, and Sean Penn visited Tom Cruise on set one day and there are scenes where he is actually the passenger in the Porsche, not Bronson Pinchot. And the soundtrack’s amazing. Of course, Tangerine Dream, their sequences are unreal. Especially Love on a Real Train. Amazing track. And there’s other artists as well. You have, of course, Bob Seger who I already mentioned, Muddy Waters, Talking Heads, Prince, Phil Collins. It’s definitely worth listening to. 

So I highly recommend watching this movie for the first time, or revisiting it. And please feel free to tell me what you think.

You can contact me directly through our Instagram, which is @Movie__Matters.

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So without further ado, please enjoy Risky Business


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