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Tom Cruise’s movie still has a lot to say

There are two homes on Chicago’s North Shore that are firmly rooted in Hollywood tradition. I probably won’t tell you anything you don’t know. Both have appeared in John Hughes films: Winnetka has a “Home Alone” home; A very well known landmark recognized by Google Maps and has its own set of Lego; and Cameron’s Highland Park home in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” a glass sandwich by A. James Speyer, a patron of Mies van der Rohe and former Art Institute 20th-century art curator.

But when I was younger, I mostly wanted to live on Linden Avenue, again in Highland Park. This house wasn’t made of glass and steel, and I certainly didn’t know at the time that this was a real home in an upscale Chicago suburb. It looked more like a Brady farm, but more stylish. Palace, Definitely. Big front lawn. Tons of green. Too many shadows. Porsche is in the driveway.

Tom Cruise lived there 40 years ago in “Risky Business,” which was released this month.

Americans hadn’t heard of Tom Cruise until they had seen Francis Ford Coppola’s semi-successful adaptation of “The Outsiders,” which came out a few months ago. A few times that August (and then once or twice in September) I didn’t sneak into “Risky Business” because a man named Tom Cruise was cast in “Risky Business.” Looking back, I doubt I even sneaked in so often because it was a teen sex fantasy.

“Risky Business” then and now is an accusation of privilege and somehow keeping the ugly world away long enough to cause some kind of impermeability. Other than that – and I guess that’s what I’m answering – it’s funny, confident and cool, and all its points about the spoils of capitalism are cloaked in a dream of wealth. It seems that while confirming that Reagan’s early years were ripe for opportunity, he undermines places like the North Shore with a much deeper finesse as cold hotbeds of inequality.

It’s no wonder that decades later Chicago chose to see Hughes as its cultural heritage, and that the city rarely mentions Paul Brickman’s “Risky Business” in the same conversations.

Ironically, 40 years ago, “Risky Business,” which was released in the first week of August, was shot on a measly $6 million budget and was shot entirely in the Chicago area, debuted at #3; The second most popular movie was “Return of the Jedi”, which continued three months later, while the first most popular movie was “National Lampoon’s Vacation” by John Hughes. “Risky Business” was a hit that mostly spread slowly, spread by word of mouth and lasted until November. Hughes’ directorial debut, “Sixteen Candles,” began filming that same summer in Evanston and Highland Park, and later on, North Shore became an American image after “Ferris Bueller”, “Home Alone”, “The Breakfast Club” and more. . suburban comfort.

The minus, of course, is the harshness revealed by “Risky Business” only a year ago (and by “Ordinary People” set and filmed around Lake Forest a few years ago).

Not everyone saw this criticism of the Reagan Years in Year 2 of the Reagan Years. David Denby wrote in his New York Magazine review that “Risky Business” pretended to be “openly corrupt”. Dave Kehr, closer to the truth as the Chicago Reader’s (later the Chicago Tribune) film critic, agreed with Denby, probably for different reasons: He wrote that the film was “one of the best film explorations of recent times”. Innocence” ended with Cruise’s character “totally degenerated,” and “one of the most painful and compelling scenes ever let in an American movie.” That’s also about the movie ending; Brickman’s original ending gets much darker.

My guess is that if you haven’t watched “Risky Business” in years, few of them can feel right.

You’ll remember Tom Cruise’s Ray-Ban sunglasses, his father’s Porsche crashing into Lake Michigan over Belmont Harbor, and Cruise dancing in his underwear to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll” song. (Producer Jon Avnet told Highland Park News a decade ago that this famous scene was filmed in a scene in Skokie, not Linden.) At first glance, much of what we associate with the ’80s teen sex comedy genre—for no reason. nudity, oversized bullying, Muddy Waters in the soundtrack – it’s still there. But in a 99-minute live broadcast, now, in 2023, there are also criticisms that cannot be missed: exploitation, coldness, white privilege, petty trials (now called “microaggressions”), pressure to hold on to one’s own power. class.

Are you still skeptical?

Brickman’s original title was “White Boys on the Lake,” as he told former Chicago journalist Jake Malooley in a speech. 2013 Salon article“I was writing this right after Reagan took office, and everybody wanted to be petty capitalists and get an MBA and wear power straps.” If you haven’t watched “Risky Business” in a while, you may not remember that the anxiety in Cruise’s Joel Goodsen (who looks like the “good boy”) boiled over when he left the North Shore for Chicago to meet her. World. The world is less exciting and her out-of-town parents can’t pick up the pieces.

Rebecca De Mornay and Tom Cruise are Lana and Joel in the 1983 movie Risky Business.

If you don’t remember that, you probably don’t remember that the movie, which includes much of Highland Park, was actually set in Glencoe. Not because it matters. Brickman grew up in Highland Park and made the movie partly using the town’s high school memories. Cruise was advocating the naivety of a 21-year-old who believed that lasting records could not be surpassed, regardless of wealth and status. He then does that little Tom Cruise thing that occasionally trembles with excitement, without the courtesy polish he uses in “A Few Good Men.” But he is a good boy who makes Joel shoulder the burden of the family’s expectations. There’s a scene where Brickman shoots through Joel’s eyes, as if he were a more benign serial killer in an ’80s slasher movie. Instead of breathing heavily and holding a knife, Joel watches and listens as his parents remind him not to party when he’s out of town, not to mess with his dad’s stereo and to make sure he has money. Don’t forget to talk to the admissions officer at Princeton University.

Joel leaves his parents at O’Hare, then goes home alone with the stereo, throws parties, and seems to forget the receptionist until it’s too late.

He also hires a sex worker named Lana, played by Rebecca De Mornay. Brickman is too considerate to admire her intelligence. As tough as Joel and his Ivy League buddies. With Joel running out of money to pay him, he heads to Highland Park downtown to cash in on a bond. When he returns, he is already in Chicago with his mother’s expensive crystal egg. There’s also a murderous pimp (Joe Pantoliano) and a plan to turn Joel’s house into a brothel for one night as a way to earn the money Joel needs to repair a sunken Porsche. They have a heart of gold whores and such a seductive love for materialism that it’s hard to avoid getting into the shallows like “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

I was seduced as a teenager.

Most of the kids here are doing that movie-style thing Hughes is gunning for; she looks so confident you can imagine basing your whole personality on their brio brand. His friends often say to Joel: “Sometimes you have to say, ‘What is that (swear)’.” That’s what it sounded like. so very clever Of course, what I don’t remember until I rewatched it recently is that everyone who said that either didn’t believe it (too risky) or they were so financially comfortable that it was easy for them to appear unfeelingly confident. .

Little betrayals pile up for Joel.

He is expelled from school. He beats up a school nurse. The crystal egg is cracking. The pimp forces him to take back the contents of his house. His interview with Princeton turns into a joke. (“Sounds like the University of Illinois!” he laughs, embracing the truth.)

None of this is real.

If “The Election” is our great cinematic high school movie about the nature of politics, “Risky Business” is “Chinatown” about capitalism, our big American high school, only funnier. Brickman gives up the instinctive kick to the last minute. Joel entered Princeton by buying the admissions officer with sex. He can’t quite believe it at first, but once he understands how the world really works, he gets it. And the future is coming together. If you notice, his eyes are freezing here. With a much less uncertain future as a sex worker, De Mornay’s Lana says they will do great things one day. Joel’s eyes offer nothing. He asks if everything that happened was a trap; Was he working with his pimp all along? He hesitates, then says no. It’s hard to believe him. Joel doesn’t do that.

At least if you watch the original ending of Brickman (easy to find) on YouTube), he does not to appear to believe in it. She curls up in his lap and the camera frames them towards Lake Michigan, and the restless feelings you have are unresolved. At the end of what everyone sees, they are walking through Lincoln Park and joking lightly with each other. Round up the ending credits.

Either way, the good boys of the North Shore make their way into Chicago’s darkness and run into trouble, then show up in one piece. No, even better! If one fails, it’s Lana, and the now less naive Joel is bound to lure her in. (In which epilogue does Joel take him to his family and Actually Can he risk his word?) In fact, 40 years later, some details aside—Harvard MBAs make $40,000 here, and $4 hot chocolate at Drake’s is considered insane—”Risky Business” makes much more sense. The colder world. Forty years later, that lovely colony in Linden seems far less accessible than it did in 1983. Curtis Armstrong, who plays Cruise’s best friend Miles, wrote in his memoirs in 2017 that it seemed safe to say: “’Risky Business’ was the last time (Tom Cruise) it was just Tom.”

I released the movie on Paramount+ the other day. Before the final credits started, Paramount’s algorithm started directing me to another movie about North Shore teens getting into trouble in a nice car driving to Chicago. It’s called “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and it’s our preferred “Risky Business” today. All success, none of the mess.

cborrelli@chicagotribune.com

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