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I Like to Watch (Instantly): Risky Business

Notable titles from the Netflix Watch Instantly world

Risky Business
Risky Business

Risky Business (1983)

Directed by Paul Brickman

Cast: Megan Mullally, Tom Cruise, Janet Carroll, Joe Pantoliano, Curtis Armstrong, Rebecca De Mornay, Nicholas Pryor

Defending Risky Business from imagined detractors could be a full-time job. It’s the archetypal juvenile male fantasy: easy sex with hot blonde prostitute Lila (Rebecca De Mornay), chase scenes in fast cars (dad has a Porsche), no parents (they’re out of town) and the chance to triumph over Guido the Killer Pimp (Joe Pantoliano). The first line of the film encapsulates this so neatly it’s hard to believe: “The dream is always the same.”

Brickman’s pre-John Hughes sex comedy exudes existentialist ennui, teen hormones and film noir fatalism in equal measure. This is the movie that demonstrates the Tom Cruise star power, now so sadly depleted and misused for Dianetic ends. First-time writer-director Paul Brickman (he directed only one other film) made some excellent decisions, not the least of which was to keep things dark. The Tangerine Dream score telegraphs the director’s intent to make a black comedy, a satire even (Cruise’s character Joel is a member of the Future Enterprisers and he ends up running a brothel). So much the better.

For my money, the two highlights of this entertainment are:

(1) Joel burying his head in Lila’s shoulder after his dad’s Porsche ends up in Lake Michigan; her cold, cruel look into the 360-spinning camera is priceless. He is hers.

(2) The sex-on-a-train scene; Chicago mass transit never looked so much like a boudoir on wheels. The seen-from-a-train voyeurism/exhibitionism is even foreshadowed in the opening credits, a move not usually seen in ’80s teen sex comedies.

I don’t condone this film, but it’s very, very good. Especially considering what it is. If nothing else, it’s the best Tom Cruise film ever made. HD version available, if you got the bandwidth.