Monday, January 26, 2009

Class (1983)

Directed by Lewis John Carlino
Starring Andrew McCarthy, Rob Lowe, Jacqueline Bisset, John Cusack
Rated R
Buy poster

"You need anything? Neck brace?"

For a teen sex comedy, Class is pretty bourgeois. I suppose the title would imply that, but still, it takes some digging to dredge up much sympathy for the film's lead, a Harvard-bound brat whose heart is wounded by a seductive older woman. Who, among us, could possibly relate to this story? We, the botched teenage bunglers of the 1980's, with our parachute pants and Pac Man obsessions, our $3.25 an hour minimum wage jobs and barber shop haircuts, we are somehow supposed to care about this upwardly mobile little creep? That's a tough sell.

Then again, maybe it's just me. I've always had (ahem) class issues. Certainly the American public at large took to this provocative comic-drama, which not only set sail the star-ships of several young and promising actors (Andrew McCarthy, John and Joan Cusack, Alan Ruck, Casey Siemaszko, Lolita Davidovich, Virginia Madsen), but revitalized Jacqueline Bisset's career, who scored her biggest hit since '77's The Deep, (AKA 'The one where she went skin diving in a white t-shirt'.) Without question, Class has one of the most star-spackled casts in the genre, and production values that approach lushness. It is, for all intents, a fine piece of filmmaking. It's just that teenagers sorta hate rich kids, and would much rather have sex with girls their own age, as opposed to 42 year olds with frizzy hair and ruddy complexions. So I get the sneaking suspicion that Class was actually made for grown-ups.

As our story unfolds, we meet young Jonathan Ogner (Andrew McCarthy, already mastering the art of the distracting nervous twitch), a new student at a tony prep school outside of Chicago. He is roommates with handsome alpha-jerk Franklin (Rob Lowe), who, mere minutes after their introduction, convinces his new friend to stroll around outside in ladies underwear. Says it's a 'Senior tradition'. Jon goes along with it, resulting in a humiliating scene.

He is at first crushed and ostracized, going so far as to cry in the cafeteria after enduring an onslaught of catcalls and insults. But after staging a mock-suicide to prank Franklin back, the two forge a truce, becoming unlikely allies. During the course of a drunken evening together, Jon reveals that he's still a virgin, so Franklin sets up a double date for the two the following evening.
"Hey, these are nice girls," Franklin tells Jon. "I might not even get laid tonight. Although that's highly unlikely."

The girls (Virginia Madsen and Deborah Thalberg) are from the all-girls school down the road, so they meet surreptitiously, under the cover of darkness. A moonlight ride in Franklin's gleaming red sports car is planned, but Jonathan pukes in the back seat almost immediately, ending the evening.

Flash forward a few days. Apparently the boys' school has formal dances with the school for girls, and Franklin runs the dance committee. He brings Jonathan on board (other members include John Cusack and Ferris Buehler's stooge, Alan Ruck) as the group's secretary, and they all attend a meeting at the girls' school to discuss the upcoming Halloween dance. Virginia Madsen is so appalled to see the car-puker again that she trips while serving a plate of sandwiches, causing a Rube Goldberg-ian chain of events that culminate with her standing there with her right (and quite ripe) breast dangling in the wind. The sudden seachange from droll to slapstick is a little jarring but still, who expected Madsen nudity? Clearly, one of the greatest and most surprising skin-shots of the entire decade. I mean, that thing is spectacular.

Jonathan is, not surprisingly, banned from the Halloween dance, but Franklin (dressed like Jesus, complete with giant wooden cross), hands him $100 and encourages him to take a cab into the city. He goes to a bar filled with disco creeps and girls with orange lipstick and proceeds to alienate the clientele with his antics and buffoonery. The night looks like a complete wash until he runs into overaged party girl Ellen (Bisset). Spearheading the Cougar trend 25 years ahead of schedule, the sophisticated, fur-wearing Ellen seduces her young friend in an elevator in one of the most well-remembered sex scenes of the 80's. Seems pretty tepid and maybe a little gross at this point, but '83 audiences were easier to please.

Things start going well for Jonathan. He convinces Ellen he's a college student and begins visiting her for steamy sex-sessions on the weekends. Meanwhile, he's become the cock of the walk on campus, sauntering around like a big city ladykiller. Ah, but the ruse is up during an ill-conceived trip to New York City, when Ellen gets a glimpse of Jon's student ID, revealing his true identity as a lowly high school senior. She jumps into the nearest cab and leaves him high and dry.

Jon mopes around for awhile, and then Christmas rolls around. He takes off with Franklin in his sports car while Joan Jett's version of Little Drummer Boy plays on the soundtrack. What's up with that, Joan? They get to Franklin's family's estate, smoke some weed, chase the maid (Anna Maria Horsford) around a little, listen to dad (Cliff Roberston) drone on about tariffs forever. Boring rich white people stuff, basically. So why are we here? What's the big deal?
Well, then Franklin's mom walks in, and - spoiler alert, sorta - it's Ellen.
Haha, Jon's been banging his smart-ass roommate's mother all this time. Serves that prick right.

So, will Jonathan and Ellen be able to keep their dirty little secret, or will Rob Lowe and Cliff Roberston find out and kill them both with a hatchet? Or, conversely, will Rob just sorta shrug it off and carry on? And will we see any more boobs at all?

I will, at least, answer the last one. Yes, but they are African tribal titties, in black and white, no less, so I'm not sure they count. As for the rest, well, there is a bloody and protracted fistfight. I mean, how would you feel if Andrew McCarthy was fucking your mom?

Class is still fondly remembered by many, mostly for Rob Lowe's natural swagger and Bisset's smoky charms, but it lurches so violently between comedy and drama that it's hard to recommend it for teensploitation fans. Ivy Leaguers could probably masturbate to it, though.

After Class: Everybody either got famous, or got more famous. The end.

Availability: Class is available on DVD.

-Ken McIntyre


  1. This movie feels like it doesn't really belong in the same category as the other films. It makes me curious on what the criteria are for the movies that get reviewed. Is it strictly a "feel" thing, or do you have some general guidelines in place?

  2. Hi Roel.

    We are operating under the conceit that, if the entire reason the movie exists is to flash tits, and if it's got laughs, intentional or not, and if it either involves or directly appeals to teenagers, and it was produced and/or released between 1970 and 1991, then it's a teen-sex-comedy.

    So, it counts!

  3. Hey Sleaze/Ken,

    Yeah, that was the basic operating definition that I kinda deduced from the majority of the movies you've been working with. I guess the opening paragraph of your review does a good job summarizing why I never really thought of "Class" in that category -- was this really aimed at teenagers? What teenagers could relate to these characters? The movie felt like it had a completely different tone and feel from the other teen-sex comedies you guys have reviewed for the blog.

    Okay, thanks for the reply. It doesn't help me come to terms with "Class" by your writing even when the movie selected leave me cold.

  4. I think I cut and past my previous post a little too hastily. Now the sentence doesn't make sense in the context of the English language. A couple of words got edited out accidentally -- here's what I was trying to write:

    "It doesn't help me come to terms with "Class" BUT I AM ENTERTAINED by your writing even when the movie selected leave me cold."

    Thanks again,

  5. Regardless of your opinion of this film and your personal “class issues,” describing the radiantly beautiful Jackie Bisset as a “42-year-old with frizzy hair and a ruddy complexion” is like calling Vladimir Horowitz “some old Russian Jew dude who banged out tunes on the piano.”

  6. Eh, it's kind of a personal preference issue, really. I personally think Stephanie Fondue is 'radiantly beautiful'. Most people think she's a skank. So it goes.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.


Related Posts with Thumbnails