Reading Ebert’s review of the Girl Next Door got me curious to see this one. I had never seen the film before this. I finally have seen that dancing underwear scene in context.
Early on we see Tom Cruise’s Joel Goodsen (see, he is the Good Son) is in a high pressured life. It is all about what college his friends and family want him to get into. It is all about the success of the future. When his parents go on a trip, he and his friends see it as an opportunity to blow off some steam. One of his friends is Cousin Balki…another is Booger. Booger-rather Miles (Curtis Armstrong) plays a joke on Joel by calling in a for an escort. When the escort arrives, Joel is surprised to find a tall black transvestite at his door. I am thankful that the character did not break into “jive” talk or get all sassy. The character is not played for strict guffaws. The misunderstanding is the source of humor, and the writer and Bruce A. Young (the actor) give the character a grace…Jackie is not the joke…Jackie gives Joel the number to Lana.
Lana is played by the rather love Rebecca De Mornay. And our first introduction is a somewhat ridiculous sex sequence with doors blowing open and clothing (and hair) whipping around. Yeah, I doubt sex with escorts is actually so crazy romantic. But De Mornay brings out an openness in her character. This could have been the cliche of the hooker with a heart of gold. Yet, the character is complex. And the film actually is far less comedy than dramatic farce. After a fight with her pimp (Joe Pantoliano), Lana and one of one of her friends claim they are working for Joel now.
After an accident with his parent’s sport’s car, Joel softens on suggestions that he get into the pimping business. She also offers to be his girlfriend. So, they start a business where Lana supplies the girls, Joel finds the customers and they run the business out of his family home. And yeah, it is hard to believe the business goes along unnoticed as it does. But on the eve of his parent’s return he discovers he has been ripped off. And Pantoliano’s Guido turns out to be behind it. This is a dark turn of a festive affair.
The film works quite effectively considering it’s topic. Joel is likeable and Cruise has chemistry with De Mornay. The dialog is crisp, and the jokes work. The drama is effective. It is surprising to me that Paul Brickman directed only one other film and has not written anything since 2001. Of the movies I wrote about this week, this was easily the cream of the crop. Comedy was different in 1983. So was Tom Cruise.