By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: Get rich selling cars.
The year is 1963 and Jeffrey (Matt Dillon) is an 18-year-old still looking for direction. While working a summer job at the Flamingo Club he meets Phil Brody (Richard Crenna) who fills his head with big dreams of getting rich while selling cars. Jeffrey’s father (Hector Elizondo) wants him to go to college, but Jeffrey finds that idea to be boring and likes getting on the ‘fast-track’ to success better. After many arguments he finally moves out only to realize that Phil’s promises are empty and full-of-strings.
The movie is entertaining mainly because it manages to successfully suck you into a whole different time period. I loved the colorful cars with fins, the snazzy outfits and bouncy tunes. Most movies recreate a bygone era with an air of contempt about it, but this film makes the early ‘60s seem fun, nostalgic and full of opportunity. It also does a great job of exposing the different layers of American capitalism from those that feed off of it and exploit it, as with Crenna’s character, to those that are just happy to get by and not take any undue risks as with the father and then to the teens who are always convinced that attaining the American Dream is much easier than it really is.
The best part of the movie though is the way in analyzes the relationship between the son and father. So many movies seem to prefer looking at conflicts between mother and daughter, but fathers and sons can have just as many quarrels and this film delivers them in a way that is relatable and believable while also being a bit touching as well.
Dillon is terrific and I liked the way the character isn’t overly cocky or crude like in most ‘80s teen movies, but instead clumsy and socially awkward only to finally find the confidence when he needs it the most. Crenna is outstanding as is Elizondo, but I thought it was unusual that he got cast in the role since he is clearly Puerto Rican and Dillon, as is son, isn’t.
Jessica Walter as Crenna’s perpetually crabby wife is wasted even though she does look fine in a bikini despite already being in her mid-40s at the time of filming. Peter Costa is a scene stealer playing the same type of role that he later did in the ‘The Cosby Show’ as a shy child who doesn’t say anything, but still manages to get into everyone’s way. John Turturro and Marisa Tomei can also be spotted in non-speaking bit parts.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: December 21, 1984
Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes
Director: Gary Marshall
Studio: 20th Century Fox