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Risky Business (1983)


I recently caught Risky Business on cable for the umpteenth time, and realized that the roots of American Beauty can all be found in this groundbreaking film. Think of Tom Cruises’s Joel as a Lester Burnham before he lost his wide-eyed youth. You can see a glimmer of it in Joel’s existential monologue (‘It seems to me that if there were any logic to our language, trust would be a four letter word.’), and he’s certainly got the devil-may-care attitude locked up.

Case in point is the plot itself — when Joel wrecks his parents’ Porsche, he turns their house into a one-night-only brothel to raise the money to pay for the damages. Even the soundtrack has the same feeling to it. Of course, Cruise owns this movie — with some excellent one-liners and a certain renowned dance move through the living room — but what of the rest of the cast? Joe Pantoliano and Rebecca De Mornay have struggled to find some measure of success, but writer/director Paul Brickman is the film’s most curious alumnus. In nearly 20 years, he’s written a smattering of scripts and has directed only one additional picture, 1990’s Men Don’t Leave. Paul, didn’t you learn anything from your man Joel?

The new 25th Anniversary DVD includes commentary from the principals, a new retrospective, extensive screen test footage, and Brickman’s cut of the film’s final scene (though it’s not terribly different).