Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Wild Life (Art Linson, 1984)

An impulsive, unrefined free spirit repeatedly finds himself clashing with a bunglesome bore in the casually commendable The Wild Life, a.k.a., one of the best things to ever to crawl its way out from the overly nostalgic head space of sentimental tripe pusher Cameron Crowe (Fast Times at Ridgemont High). A rambunctious examination of adolescent devilment circa 1984, and, not to mention, a first-rate peek into what it must have been like to come-of-age in Torrance, California, this Art Linson directed teen flick failed to impress me the first time around–you know, beyond the usual larks and superficialities that typically bubble near the surface in films like this. But looking at it again, I was struck by how much light it sheds on the importance of creating memories during one's youth. Think about all those unseemly things you did as a reckless adolescent. Have you got the images in your mind? How would you feel if those memories weren't there? Sure, some of the memories might be painful, and their disappearance could be seen as a blessing. But without those memories, even the bad ones, you wouldn't be yourself, you'd be a mindless zombie with no discernible personality. The moments of embarrassment some of the characters endure in this movie are what end up forming the building blocks of their very souls. Whether it be you're dorky boss forcing you to confront a shoplifter in the trendy mall boutique you work at or being romantically rebuffed by a couple of bikini clad stewardesses (Brynja McGrady and Leigh Lombardi) as "Mirror Man" by The Human League plays on the soundtrack, these moments are integral to your overall growth as a human being.

Following the adventures of a glum nineteen year-old with reddish hair, one who, get this, has just broken up with his strikingly beautiful girlfriend, Anita (Lea Thompson), Bill Conrad (Eric Stoltz) is looking forward to branching out on his own and moving into a swanky apartment complex. He sees it as liberation from his childlike existence, hence, the dumping of his high school girlfriend. However, his best friend and fellow bowling alley employee isn't quite ready to grow up. Wait a minute, what kind of asshole breaks up someone who looks like Lea Thompson?!? This course of action baffled the living fuck out of me. I mean, Lea Thompson? What a tool. It's true, Bill does eventually come to his senses. But this bizarre act was the main reason I saw a dark cloud hovering over Bill's head for the majority of this movie.

Anyway, his best friend, Tom Drake (Chris Penn), is the complete opposite of Bill, in that, he loves his high school girlfriend (Jenny Wright) and lives to party. These two lifestyles are incompatible with one another and cause much conflict between the mismatched buds.While the aforementioned "girlfriends" in The Wild Life may not party as hard as the guys, and aren't given succinct catchphrases to utter (Tom's mantra, "it's casual," permeates the proceedings like a carefree head cold), they are just as interesting as the boys; even more so at times, if you ask me.

An insanely gorgeous Lea Thompson (Howard the Duck) and the alluring Jenny Wright (Out of Bounds) play gal pals, Anita and Eileen, and I found their boy-related stress to be fascinating, and, strangely enough, downright illuminating at times. Call me grossly incognizant, but I enjoyed their heart to hearts about their futures and respective fellas.

The most interesting girlfriend was by far Eileen, a high school senior who is currently working (the film takes place in late August) at Fashion Dynasty, a new wave inspired clothing store (watch the mannequins closely, as some of them are actually played by living, breathing people). She not only has to deal with the erratic behaviour of Tom, her smothering, mentally challenged boyfriend (his steady stream of marriage proposals are pushing her over the edge), but also the untoward advances of her boss (Rick Moranis), a bespectacled fashion victim with poofy hair who thinks Eileen is the bees knees.

Played with sexy aplomb by Jenny Wright, Eileen perfectly symbolized the unease that came with growing up new wave in a heavy metal world. In theory, that makes no sense, but when approached with from a slightly skewed angle, it makes some sense. At any rate, everything from Jenny's spiky haircut to the annoyance she displays after another surprise visit from her boyfriend was wonderfully realized by the attractive actress. One in which involves him costing her sale (he rightly tells a potential customer that the jacket he's about to purchase is too small) However, my favourite surprise visit had to be the one where Tom watches her as she gets undressed through her bedroom window, as the sight of Miss Wright enjoying the sumptuous contours of her world-class organic structure was an absolute delight.

Oh, and I loved the closeup shot of her legs as she sat cross-legged outside her school. The perverted manner in which the camera lingered on her ankle bracelet (the little heart-shaped jewels caressing the upper part of her right foot) and slowly moved its way up her body was breathtaking.

As cute as a button-like substance, Lea Thompson plays Anita, a Donut City employee who's having sex with an older man (Hart Bochner). And when I say, "having sex," I'm not being unnecessarily crude, the older man, who's a police officer (yep, policemen like to order more than just donuts) refuses to take Anita out on a normal date. Again, what's wrong with these people? Actually, he, as we'll soon find out, has got a pretty good excuse for not wanting to be seen in public with Anita, but I digress. Looking adorable behind the donut counter, Lea imbues her character with enough bewildered looks and sweet smiles to make us forget that she likes to straddle a mustache-sporting lawman amidst irretrievable sprinkles and coagulating clumps of gooey dough.

The best Lea-based look of bewilderment comes when she realizes that her cop lover has stood her up.

It also makes think about the sheer amount of effort she made to look nice for him, as the scene that preceded her bewilderment shows Anita struggling to encase her shapely gams into a pair of white pantyhose. Okay, she wasn't exactly "struggling," but the pantyhose fetish crowd will most likely love it when Lea Thompson playfully stretches the waistband of her hose all the way up to her chest.

The misguided lure of the conflict in Vietnam (1959-1975) consumes the aura of a disaffected teen named Jim (Ilan Michael-Smith), as he pretends to carry the burden of that particular entanglement (the militaristic clothing he wears and the classic rock blasting from his boombox reflect this fake burden perfectly). Oh, just in case I didn't mention it earlier, Jim is Bill's younger brother, and his subplot runs parallel to the ones about Tom and his pseudo-engagement to Eileen (a pseudo-bachelor party he attends at a Les Girls features the lovely Ashley St. Jon as Stripper #1, Stripper #2 is played by Kitten Natividad), Bill's attempt to gain autonomy, and Anita's affair with the police officer. Anyway, Jim's tough exterior is justifiably softened when in the presence of Brenda (Simone White), an angelic girl with blonde hair and braces. The two may only glance at each other a couple of times and exchange hi's with one another at the local bowling alley, but I found their subtle flirting to be mildly intoxicating.

Other than forgetting to mention Ángel Salazar's amazement over the fact that Les Girls accepting Visa and MasterCard (the way he pronounces, "mastercharge," is comedy gold), I think that covers just about everything.

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1 comment:

  1. MasterCard was originally called MasterCharge, so it's not as golden as you think.