I am chipping away at a list of classic films that I have dubbed important for me to see. Many of the films on the list are there because I am embarrassed to say that I have not seen them. Most recently I checked off Risky Business. I will confess that Top Gun is still on the list. This is mainly because the Tom Cruise of the 2000’s has always turned me off. Jumping on couches, preaching scientology and a line-up of bad apocalyptic films never appealed to me. But I have reconsidered that this doesn’t make his earlier career invalid. I enjoyed him in Rain Man. However his character for the duration of that film is unlikable. I remember peering my head into the living room and sneaking glimpses of Jerry Maguire and enjoying it. So I decided to step back to 1983, and give one of his earliest features a shot.
I was impressed. I didn’t expect such smart cinematography for a “coming of age” film. And though the storyline appears at first to be a simple boy meet hooker tale, it is nuanced when addressing the hooker’s personality and Joel’s (Tom Cruise) naivety. Joel is granted an empty house when his parents retreat to a sunny getaway for the weekend. At first he embraces his freedom innocently. In the most famous scene he dances in his underwear and button-up to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” and he casually helps himself to a large glass of whiskey as he pleases and cranks up his father’s stereo system.
When his mischievous friend calls Joel a hooker, is when the “risky business” begins. The young hooker moves into his parent’s high-end home on Chicago’s North Shore. He irritates the girl’s pimp. His mother’s favorite piece of art is stolen. His father’s Porsche finds its way to the bottom of Lake Michigan. His parent’s house is turned into a lucrative brothel. And he jeopardizes his chances of getting into Princeton.
Luckily Joel has a slick way of returning order when it’s crunch time. He misses his parents at the airport but when they get home it’s almost exactly as they had left it. I wish I had been as adept as Joel at covering up my “risky business,” but let’s face it– things never get as out of hand as they do in the movies.