Risky Business (1983)


Nineteen year-old Tom Cruise made his star-making turn alongside Rebecca DeMornay in writer/director Paul Brickman’s directorial debut, Risky Business. Cruise plays a college-bound teen who’s forced to turn his parents’ upper class home into a brothel for one illustrious night in order to pay for accidentally destroying his father’s Porsche. DeMornay plays a call girl who proposes the whole endeavor. Along the way, they battle DeMornay’s pimp (Joe Pantoliano) and try to figure out whether they are just playing boyfriend and girlfriend, or if they have genuine feelings for one another.

Risky Business reads like your average teen sex comedy, but Brickman’s direction elevates the material with admirable verisimilitude and evocative style that you rarely find in films for younger audiences. It’s a fun and funny movie, to be sure, but Cruise and DeMornay’s fears and concerns are palpable. The love scenes are hyperstylized, with French doors opening and leaves blowing in around the young lovers when they first have sex. Later on, Cruise and DeMornay have sex on a train in a slow-motion sequence set to Tangerine Dream’s hypnotic scoring. Risky Business isn’t just smart and funny. It’s fucking sexy, too.

Cruise anchors the film extraordinarily well. As soon as he slides into that famous shot in his underwear pantomiming to Bob Seger, it’s like the movie gods shined a light down from movie heaven and pronounced, “And behold, a new movie star.” DeMornay is clearly cast largely for her presentation as an object of desire, but the role isn’t entirely thankless. She rides an ambiguous line between femme fatale and romantic lover, and serves as a primary motivator in propelling forward both the plot and Cruise’s character. Bronson Pinchot, Curtis Armstrong, and Richard Masur make the most of smaller supporting roles.

I have always enjoyed movies that treat ridiculous content as seriously as possible, and Risky Business clearly falls into this category. As a ‘wish fulfillment’ movie, it offers up a weekend without the parents — you drive your dad’s Porsche, meet a call girl that becomes your girl friend, you have the sexiest sex anyone could ever have, and you end up running a lucrative sex service out of your home to make a cool eight grand in just one night. Anyone could have made a serviceable sex comedy out of this screenplay. But Paul Brickman created two stars in the casting of Cruise and DeMornay, and treated the material seriously and stylishly enough for it to stand the test of time.

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