Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Risky Business Review

Americans sure know how to host a horrible house party. They also know how to whittle away their time with nothing to show for it. Where’s the hotheaded idiot throwing up their shots into the sink? Another two fools who are mixing all sorts of different beverages together, in the hopes of making some psychotic creation. Nowhere within Risky Business does anyone yell some strange profanity, and then subsequently dive through a glass door. The good old days of the house party are to be lost forever on future generations, but as Tom Cruise delights us with his presence among prostitutes and carjackings in this light criticism of the coming-of-age movement under capitalism.  

Well-to-do students with no growth outside of their education are boring. I should know. Trusted with free reign of the home, Joel (Tom Cruise) finds himself with endless opportunities. The free times of the weekend are made evident to him, but all he does is drink beer, eat chips and make a tit of himself as he prats about his living room to forgotten rock songs in his underwear. A boring time indeed, but he clicks on soon enough that his time is better spent leading the life the young adults in limbo often do. Drinking, prank calls, all the usual addictive styles of fun. But we lead risk-free lives because we don’t want to antagonize ourselves about the embarrassment of such decisions. Paul Brickman captures those essential fantasies of fear with credible direction. The house surrounded by a S.W.A.T. team for Joel dares to think of sleeping with his babysitter in a remarkably brief dream sequence.  

If we are to come of age, then surely, we should do so with as much as we can. Should we be allowed to overindulge, crash cars and romance the night away with alcohol and cards, then we should. It is what we are free to do. We should do as Joel does, but take it to the next level. We must believe that these are the best of times because they are. We must live a risk-heavy life, otherwise, it is not worth living. Is it? Fast cars, free rides and the ability to do anything with everything expose themselves to Joel, and all he does is fawn for a girl he only just met. At least he does so whilst cruising around in a Porsche. Comfortable seats at the performance of his own downfall.  

But Brickman captures those essential notes of the coming-of-age film. All the fears and the excitement, the adrenalin rush of trying something new that at this age is wrong, but in the later years is something we may regret not doing. Risky Business comes of age within the genre tailor-made for coming of age, and its surprising sophistication and adult attitude to the lives of young adults gives it a credibility often reserved for a higher branch of drama. There is a sleek and stylish nature to Risky Business usually reserved for films of a whole other world. Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay have palpable chemistry with one another, and they do well to bring the rich experiences of a life of materialism to the screen. “Exploring the dark side,” as Joel says, seems worth those moments of risky business.  

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Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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