“Risky Business” (1983)

In the film “Risky Business” three time Golden Globe winner Tom Cruise (Born on the Fourth of July) portrays Joel Goodsen. He is a well rounded, high school student. He has aspirations to go far in the business world and is a member of a club called the Future Enterprisers, which competes against students from other schools in a contest to see who can make the most profit from a homemade project.

At the beginning of the film, Joel’s father (Nicholas Pryor) and mother (Janet Carroll) are going away on a weeklong vacation. Before leaving, his father admonishes Joel not to drive his Porsche 928. Joel’s not insured to drive the car and he needs to stick to driving the family station wagon. Furthermore, his father reminds him that a representative from Princeton is coming Friday evening to interview Joel about possible admission to the school.

At first, with the exception of blasting his parent’s stereo system to the song “Old Time Rock N’ Roll” by Grammy winner Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, while dancing around in his underwear, Joel doesn’t stray from the norm. The aforementioned scene, which has become iconic in popular culture, was improvised. The only direction Cruise was given was to dance to rock music.

Joel’s friend Barry, played by Emmy nominee Bronson Pinchot (Perfect Strangers) in his film debut, is one of Joel’s teammates in Future Enterprisers. He wants Joel to keep his thoughts focused on winning the competition. The character of Miles, acted in his film debut by Curtis Armstrong (Revenge of the Nerds), is more interested in Joel having fun, while ignoring the consequences. Miles tries to help Joel by hiring him an escort which winds up not working out. The escort, however provides Joel with a phone number for a different girl.

Lana, is a high end escort played by Rebecca De Mornay (The Slugger’s Wife). As soon as Joel sees her, he is immediately taken with her. She and the things she does with him, which for the most part is more implied than shown, becomes his fantasy come to life. The only downside is when, the next morning, she asks him for the three hundred dollars he owes her for the evening. Joel doesn’t have it. He tells her he will go to the bank and get it, but when he returns home, Lana is gone and so is a valuable crystal belonging to his mother.

Joel tracks Lana down. She lets him know that she is tired of working for her pimp Guido, portrayed by Emmy winner Joe Pantoliano (The Sopranos). Lana has an idea as to how they can make money. Joel, reluctant at first, is going to need to make some fast cash, thanks to having a mishap with the Porsche. Everything hinges on the success of a party he and Lana will throw at his house on Friday night. The same night that Mr. Rutherford, played by Emmy nominee Richard Masur (The Burning Bed), from Princeton is coming to interview Joel. (As an aside: Multiple Grammy and Oscar winner Frank Sinatra (From Here to Eternity) was considered for the part of Guido, but the filmmakers decided he wasn’t the right age for the part).

Will Joel, with Lana’s help, be able to get the money to fix the car? Can he throw the party, interview with Rutherford and avoid dealing with Guido all on the same evening?

Trivia buffs take note: While filming “The Outsiders,” Tom Cruise got the script for “Risky Business.” He asked Diane Lane, one of his co-stars in the film to audition for the part of Lana. Lane’s father, refused to allow the seventeen year old to audition for the role of an escort who would be naked on screen. Oscar winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People) was the first choice to play Joel. He turned the part down to work on five time Oscar nominee Sidney Lumet’s (Dog Day Afternoon) film “Daniel.” After Hutton passed, Cruise was one of many actors who were considered for the part. Included, but not limited to, other actors that were considered were: Two time Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Forest Gump); Oscar winner Nicholas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas); and two time Oscar winner Sean Penn (Mystic River). In fact, before Cruise was cast, actor Brian Backer (Fast Times at Ridgemont High) was cast as Joel. Oscar winner Kim Bassinger (L.A. Confidential) was offered, but passed on playing the part of Lana. The movie marked the film debut for two time Emmy winner Megan Mullally (Will & Grace).

“Risky Business” was written and directed by Paul Brickman (Uprising). The film was released in theaters in the United States on August 5, 1983. Comprised of the genres of comedy, crime, drama, and romance, the film has a runtime of 99 minutes. Music for the film was composed by seven time Grammy nominee Tangerine Dream (Tyranny of Beauty). Their music syncs up well with what is transpiring on screen and gives certain scenes a dream like quality.

The film is most definitely a product of its time. Certain scenarios, for example, Joel’s parents trying to get in touch with him from the airport while using a pay phone to call the house’s landline is not relatable these days. Firstly, I can’t remember the last time I saw a pay phone. Secondly, if the film were made today, Joel and his parents would all have cell phones. There are numerous other examples, which viewers will notice, that date the film, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. I would recommend it for fans of Cruise and De Mornay who’ve never seen the movie, or to those seeking a nostalgic 80s film, as well as viewers who are interested in a relatively harmless comedy.

About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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2 Responses to “Risky Business” (1983)

  1. Great review (and more interesting trivia!), I’m a big fan of Tom Cruise although you’re right – this is very much a product of it’s time. It’s still entertaining in a lot of ways, funny what you say about payphones/cell phones – that’s the reason why I don’t think a remake of Home Alone can work given all the technology available to stay “connected”…but Disney are still remaking it anyway haha!

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you very much!

      I am glad you liked the trivia.

      I agree with you. I am not sure how they’re going to pull off an effective remake of “Home Alone,” it should be interesting to see how the filmmakers handle that aspect of the movie.

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