Risky Business (1983): There Is No Substitute

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today I’m continuing my series of Tom Cruise movie reviews. Tom Cruise is one of the most revered actors working today. Over his lifetime, he’s had a lot of movies under his belt, no Oscars, but he was nominated for three of those bad boys. His film acting career began in 1981 with the romantic comedy “Endless Love,” and on September 29, 2017, as far as the United States goes, a new film starring Cruise will be released, which is called “American Made.” Leading up to that film, we’re gonna dive into some of Cruise’s earlier work. To start off the series, I did my review for “The Last Samurai,” which came out in 2003. Today, we’re going back to 1983, to review “Risky Business.” So without further ado, let’s start the review!

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“Risky Business” is directed Paul Brickman, stars Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay (Flipped, Wedding Crashers), and is about a teenage boy whose parents go away and leave him alone at his house. While this happens, the boy is looking for chances to have fun, but this situation gets out of hand soon.

I own the DVD for “Risky Business” and when I actually first got the DVD, my mother said I’d love this movie, and love it I did. This movie seems to be one of those films a lot of people like for one reason or another. It features iconic scenes such as when Tom Cruise is sliding on the floor and dancing in his house to “Old School Rock and Roll.” It has a stellar cast, they all seem to ace their role and pull you into the movie. It feels realistic, it doesn’t feel like a cartoon like “Blues Brothers,” which works as a cartoon-like film, but if you put “Risky Business” side-by-side with “Blues Brothers” right in front of me, chances are I’m gonna say “Blues Brothers” is a fun ride with interesting characters and great humor, but I’m also gonna say “Risky Business” is an art film. It’s not complete goofiness, it’s not absolute absurdity, it’s unquestionable authenticity. Granted there are moments in the film that feel like they can’t be done in real life, but the whole vibe of the movie and the scenes it has can be convincing enough to let you know that this can happen. In some ways this almost feels like a John Hughes film, which is kind of interesting to me because this came out around a time before a lot of his famous movies which he wrote were released. Movies like “The Breakfast Club,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Weird Science,” and “Home Alone,” that is if any of those films were rated R, so this is more like “The Edge of Seventeen,” in some ways when it comes to the mood, which came out in 2016.

Let’s talk about the main character of Joel Goodsen, played by Tom Cruise. Joel is the character that is staying home while his parents are away. While this happens, we see him taking on various responsibilities, hanging with his friends, dancing in his underwear, trying to increase his chances of getting into a high-achieving college, shaping his future, and screwing around with a chick, we’ll get to her in a second. If you ever saw the movie “Home Alone” and ever felt that Kevin in that movie was having the time of his life because his family was away, that is something these two had in common at a point in this movie. The two characters also find themselves in troublesome situations. If you put these two movies alongside each other and tweak them a little bit, you get almost the exact same movie. Joel is simply just a kid trying his best to succeed and at the same time he’s just trying to have some fun, I can relate to that. I might not call a sex worker, I’m 17 after all so I can’t really do that. I live in an area where the age of consent is 16 years old, but still I can’t really do that.

Rebecca De Mornay plays Lana, when we first witness her in the film, she’s actually a call girl who Joel calls one night, and their one night interaction eventually turns into something more. When it comes to casting, there COULD NOT have been a better pick when this movie was in production back in 1982. If you look at De Mornay, she’s basically a dream girl. I’ve gathered this based on her seductive attitude that is executed throughout the film, in terms of overall acting ability, I never really discovered a moment when she was out of character, and JUST LOOK AT HER! She’s also rather funny at times, there’s one line in particular given by her that I find laughable, not sure how many of you agree, but if you watch the movie and hear the tone which it’s delivered and have a realization of the situation at hand, it’s probably gonna make some people laugh. I personally think it’s humorous, so I don’t see why someone else wouldn’t.

JOEL: Don’t steal anything. If I come back here and anything’s missing, I’m going straight to the police. I mean it.

LANA: Joel, go to school. Go learn something.

As far as their relationship goes, this is a relationship that almost seems like it can’t happen in real life, but when watching this movie, you can totally buy into it. This is one of multiple reasons why I’d say this is one of my favorite relationships in all of cinema. Not to mention, how the relationship itself begins is interesting. You see, Lana is a call girl, and she’s someone who Joel calls one night when he has nothing better to do while his parents are gone. When Joel calls Lana, Joel doesn’t even say his actual name to her. Instead of referring to himself as Joel, he says his name is Ralph. Unfortunately for Joel, he failed to realize the cost of what was originally meant to be a one-night stand, which happened to be $300. The acting was perfect during the scene, Joel was questioning Lana, getting a little nervous, and tries to find a way to pay her.

There are a number of supporting characters in “Risky Business,” however my personal favorite would have to be the one in the red shirt you can see in the image above on the left. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, that’s Miles, played by Curtis Armstrong (Revenge of the Nerds, Better Off Dead). And speaking of favoritism, I’m actually going to be talking about something in association with the topic in just a moment, but for now, let’s focus on Miles. Miles is basically a bad influence to Joel, and out of all the supporting characters shown throughout the movie, Miles definitely moved the story along more than any other. One of the redeeming qualities of “Risky Business,” at least to me, is the screenplay. In fact, if you have seen my recent countdown, “Top 10 BEST Movie Quotes,” one of the quotes from this movie, given specifically by Miles himself, is on that list, in fact, let’s reveal that quote once more.

MILES: “Every now and then, say, “What the f*ck.” “What the f*ck” gives you freedom, freedom brings opportunity. Opportunity makes your future.”

In my countdown I described the quote as something that can apply a lot to reality. Think about it. In life, people have ideas, doesn’t matter how brilliant or dumb said ideas are, they’re just around. When it comes to certain ideas, one may be uncertain of how it’ll turn out, it could work out, it might not. But some people might say “What the f*ck,” or “What the hell,” or “What the heck,” because while they have no idea where this idea will lead to or how it will turn out, they feel the show must go on. This is not the only great line Miles gives in this movie, there’s more, including this one early on in the film.

MILES: “I don’t believe this! I’ve got a trig midterm tomorrow, and I’m being chased by Guido the killer pimp.”

That line actually took place during a chase scene, and this took place in a Porsche, speaking of which, let’s talk about this exchange between Miles and Joel once the chase ends.

JOEL: Porsche. There is no substitute.
MILES: (Face peeps from back seat of the car) F*ck you.

Curtis Armstrong literally nailed his performance, and keep in mind, this was his first movie. Then again he has done stage work prior to the making of this film. Much like Tom Cruise, if Curtis wasn’t in this movie, he probably wouldn’t have a film career the size he does today. If Tom weren’t in this movie and showed himself off in a breakout role, it’s possible the chance of Cruise starring in the “Mission: Impossible” movies would be impossible, we would have never seen him ask Goose to talk to him in “Top Gun,” we would have never witnessed him live the same day over and over again in “Groundhog Da–err I mean “Edge of Tomorrow.” Regardless of how much you might end up enjoying this film, this film set the stage for both of these careers to take off. The film was a big hit when it came out, film enthusiasts admired it, both actors played likable characters while giving off good performances. Armstrong may have played the character he was most well known for in the next movie he did, “Revenge of the Nerds,” but if it weren’t for “Risky Business,” it’s quite possible that Armstrong would have never had roles in various pieces of work including “Better Off Dead” and “Moonlighting.” Now let’s bring the subject of favoritism back into play here.

I mentioned this before, and I’ll mention this again. From a fanatical standpoint, I admire Curtis Armstrong. You guys may be thinking that I’m just talking about all of this because of my admiration for the man himself, and while my admiration has encouraged me to discover more about him, he has proven from a critical standpoint, not just in my mind, but in other people’s minds, to be a respectable actor. If you watch some of his work you’d understand. Just watch this movie, “Revenge of the Nerds,” “Ray,” or even some of his voiceover work in shows like “American Dad!.”

Anyway, back to the review. One thing I don’t want to forget is the perhaps slightly overlooked performances given by Joel’s parents. Part of this may have to do with some of the movie’s writing, but as I watched this movie more and more, I’ve grown in terms of admiration towards these two characters. The mother is played by Janet Carroll and the father is played by Nicolas Pryor. While these two barely have any screentime, they certainly serve their purpose. The father comes off as stern, although he never really goes over the top with it with obnoxious yelling and the mother seems to be rather worried. She doesn’t really show it emotionally, but it’s something I picked up on while Joel was with her and the father in the airport as she handed money to Joel. If you watch “Risky Business,” listen very carefully to the dialogue in that scene to see what I mean. A line that’s somehow funny to me that comes out of the father’s mouth is “Do I hear others there?” If this line were given in some other way as opposed to how it sounds in this movie than it wouldn’t be funny, but the delivery here is what makes it humorous to me.

There are a lot of things that I like about this movie, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have flaws. One of the most interesting things I discovered concerning the movie’s production is how the ending turned out. The ending that everyone who has watched the film from beginning to end witnessed was not the ending that director Paul Brickman had in mind. His original ending was mostly similar to the one you see in the movie. However when we get to a conversation which takes place in a restaurant Joel and Lana are eating in, we don’t cut away from it. We do get the same cutaways to a couple of young folks giving speeches about their products and the profits they made. Although in the theatrical ending, we cut away from the restaurant and the two are in a park, they’re talking to each other. The talking consists of lines reminiscent of a conversation the two had earlier in the film. Soon we hear this line:

JOEL: “My name is Joel Goodsen. I deal in human fulfillment. I grossed over eight thousand dollars in one night. Time of your life, huh kid?”

The alternate ending is basically the same thing without the cutaway, we see a continuation given to Joel and Lana’s conversation, then Lana sits on Joel’s lap as the two begin to show affection for each other. Then we hear this line:

JOEL: “My name is Joel Goodsen. I deal in human fulfillment. I grossed over eight thousand dollars in one night. Isn’t life grand?”

I personally prefer the alternate ending, and so does Brickman. I prefer it because the original ending feels very tacked on. It doesn’t entirely fit with the movie itself. That’s not to say the ending’s an abomination, it’s not as bad as say, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” but it just feels like something that would belong in a different movie. The original ending has a rather comedic vibe, and yes, the movie is funny, but the dramatic tone of the alternate ending seems to fit the movie better and highlight how life isn’t always going to be pretty. Not only that, but it also makes Joel and Lana’s relationship more believable. Now, I mentioned before, there are parts that feel fantastical, but this ending makes this relationship feel more like a relationship. It’s not often that you are in a boyfriend/girlfriend status and talk about bonds in the bank twice in a short period of time. I mean, heck, I can’t recall many times in my life where I hear people talk about bonds in any sort of perspective! Unless we’re talking about possibly Daniel Craig, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, David Niven, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Barry Nelson, or George Lazenby.

If there’s one common genre of movies to come out during the eighties whose movies still hold up today according to many people, that is in fact, the coming of age genre. One guy who has mastered this is John Hughes. Now “Risky Business” came out in 1983, John Hughes has done some work before it came out, including “National Lampoon’s Vacation” which actually came out the week prior to “Risky Business.” Although a lot of John Hughes’s movies came out after “Risky Business” and when I watch this movie, I can’t help but connect them together sometimes with comparisons. Between this movie and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” both have an incident involving a valuable car. Based on my memory, the movie also has a similar vibe to “Sixteen Candles” at various times. Another John Hughes film I like is “Weird Science,” and much like this movie, that one has a fast-paced scene in a car, a rather seductive woman, and younger people doing things that their parents would find troublesome. So in a way, it’s possible that John Hughes’s writing may have been inspired by this movie.

Speaking of kids getting into trouble, part of this movie’s conclusion involves Joel having to own up to actions which occurred earlier in the movie. I love this because it shows the imperfections of Joel, he doesn’t exactly earn complete victory. There are lots of movies where we see someone go down, then go completely up. In this movie, we see someone fluctuating up and down as time goes on.

Another part of the movie I’ve found out others admire is the music. The music in this movie is done by Tangerine Dream, who you may also know as the composer of the music heard in 1984’s “Flashpoint,” the 2013 video game “Grand Theft Auto V,” and the 1987 movie “Three O’Clock High.” The score in this movie overall flows naturally and at times it really takes the movie from being a movie and turns it into art. This is shown during the train scene when Joel and Lana are removing each other’s clothes and are about to make love to each other. Not to mention, when it comes to the movie’s music from a general perspective, it’s kinda catchy. Also the inclusion of outside songs worked too for the scenes they were in. A lot of people say that the “Old School Rock and Roll” scene is iconic, but one scene that I personally feel is overlooked is the scene featuring the song “In the Air Tonight.” This is in the same scene towards the end of the movie that Joel and Lana are about to make love to each other on a train. I love how this music blends into this scene. This just screams sensual. The song is not only groovy, but it does a good job at providing the perfect vibe to the scene that’s at hand, and when it comes to Tangerine Dream’s score, that’s something I can say for that too.

In the end, “Risky Business” is a movie that gets better the more I think about it. There are multiple great characters in the movie. Joel, Lana, Joel’s parents, Miles, Guido, a lot of people shine here. From an editing perspective, this film is amazing. The music blends perfectly with every scene it’s featured in, and the screenplay has numerous quotable lines. On IMDb, this film has less than a 7/10. I think this is a little bit underappreciated as far as entertainment value goes, and as far as moviemaking goes. I’m kind of disappointed that Paul Brickman didn’t do much other work after this movie because this is something I’d watch over and over again. I’m gonna give “Risky Business” a 10/10. But wait! Some of you might be thinking, “Jack! You imbecile! You said this movie had flaws!” A movie can still be a 10/10 and contain flaws. YouTube user Chris Stuckmann reviewed “Batman Begins” and said it had an editing problem but ended up giving it an A+, another YouTuber named Jeremy Jahns reviewed “Baby Driver” and said it was ten minutes too long and ended giving it an “awesometacular,” which is his highest grade. I love “Star Wars Episode VII,” I currently have that as a 10/10 movie, but that movie borrows a lot from the original “Star Wars” trilogy. I loved that movie so much in fact that it was my favorite movie of 2015! So yeah, for now I stand by my 10, it could change, who knows? I originally had this movie at a 9/10. This doesn’t mean the movie’s perfect, it just needs a little extra pieces to complete the puzzle and than I’d say bingo. But seriously, this movie’s underrated and depending on what happens, might be my favorite movie I review in this series of Tom Cruise reviews. Thanks for reading this review, I would like to let you know that next week we will be looking at the final entry in the Tom Cruise series, I’m still deciding on what that movie should be, but if you have any suggestions, leave a comment as to what that movie should be down below and who knows, I might review it. If you want to check out my previous entry to the Tom Cruise series, be sure to check out my review for “The Last Samurai.” If you want to read that review, you’ll either find a red box down below that will take you to it or if you’re on my page where all my posts are in order, it’s the post right below this one. Stay tuned for more reviews! Also, I want to know, what are some interesting stories you have about being home alone without your parents? Or if you are someone who is still living with their parents, perhaps a teenager, what are some interesting things you would do if your parents are gone? Let me know all that down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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