Saturday, March 28, 2009

No Small Affair (1984)

Directed by Jeffrey Schatzberg
Starring Demi Moore, Jon Cryer, George Wendt
Rated R

"Hi, I'm Charles Cummings."
"Big fuckin' deal."

Quick, what's that goofy 80's movie where Demi Moore plays a struggling rock singer who meets a naïve young kid who falls in love with her and concocts loony ideas to make her famous? That's right, 1986's nutzoid classic, One Crazy Summer. But what if I told you there was another film with the exact same description released two years earlier, a long-forgotten 'comedy' that traded John Cusack's woe-is-me cartoonist for a perpetually sarcastic high-school photographer essayed by a baby-faced Jon Cryer? You'd be beside yourself, surely. And get this: said film also throws in Tim Robbins as a dope, Jennifer Tilly in nerd glasses, a nipply EG Daily, George Wendt as a grabby nightclub owner, and Lana, the sexy neighbor from Three's Company, as Cryer's mom. How, with such a winning cast and well-worn plot, could No Small Affair end up languishing on the dusty bottom shelf of cinema for so long?

Probably because it's not that good. But hey, it does have a bunch of Twisted Sister songs on the soundtrack!

Cryer is Charles Cummings, a bored, snotty high school kid who works part-time as a portrait photographer. He's got a clueless mother (Ann Wedgeworth, instantly recognizable as Lana, Jack Tripper's hot-to-trot next door neighbor) with an ex-hippy boyfriend, Ken (Jeffrey Tambor) and a jaundiced outlook on life that borders on the depressive. Charles gets into trouble at school a lot ("I got a call from his principal. He was caught taking pictures of flies in his French class"), which prompts Ken to sit him down over waffles and offer some advice.
"Being weird and different is not where it's at, Chuck," Ken tells him. "It takes energy. Energy you could put into being normal. If you put in the effort, you have a great shot at being a successful normal person."
That's actually fantastic advice. I could've used that talk in high school.

Life becomes more intriguing when Charles's big brother Leonard (Peter Frechette) shows up with fiancé Susan (EG Daily) in tow. They plan on getting married right there at mom's house in a couple days, but before that, why not live it up a little?

Charles, Leonard, and Susan head out for a night on the town. They attempt to get into a topless club, but under-aged Charles gets the boot. Leonard suggests Susan show off hers (she's poking right through her t-shirt anyway), but she refuses. They end up at a smoky bar called Jake's, run by...well, a fat dude named Jake (Norm himself, George Wendt).

Singer Laura Victor (Demi Moore) is on stage with a band, rocking the fuck out. Charles is transfixed. He pulls out his camera and starts snapping pictures, which somehow provokes a riot. Later on, after the dust clears, Laura's guitar player quits, which makes her cry. Jake consoles her by squeezing her ass while he hugs her.

Next night, there's a bachelor party for Leonard where a bunch of dudes sit around guzzling vodka and watching VHS porn. Is that how bachelor parties usually go? Seems depressing. Anyway, one of the guys hires a hooker for Leonard, a classy looking blonde in a business suit named Stephanie (Judith Baldwin, the actress who replaced Tina Louise in the Gilligan's Island TV movie), but the party's in a one-room apartment, so Lenny has nowhere to ball his whore. Charles says he knows a place, and the next thing you know, everyone is at Jakes, watching Demi sing a song while her hair is jutting out of the top of her head in a reverse pony tail.

I'm not sure how Jake's would serve as a suitable fuck-and-run spot, but everybody seems to enjoy the show, at any rate. Later that night, Leonard wakes Charles up and presents him with Stephanie, who takes her shirt off and chases him around the room. He starts to panic.
"It's just like swimming," she tells him, sorta inexplicably. And then she pops her bra off, revealing a couple of very impressive sweater-pups. She keeps 'em out for several minutes, which is nice. Charles decides he's not ready to start banging hookers, and opts for a simple hug instead. What?

The next day at school, Charles is getting hassled by blockhead Tim Robbins, when Laura rolls up in a Porsche, dressed in thrift-store chic, and asks him to 'snap' her back at her place after school. He's so excited, he moonwalks. In your face, Tim Robbins!

Charles shows up at her paint-splattered hipster loft, and Laura's gives him a whole sourpuss routine. She tells him that Jake hired a new band for his club, and in desperation, she offered to sleep with him, but he told her he had too much respect for her. Not only does this completely contradict his ass-grabbing behavior from 20 minutes ago, it also seems highly unlikely. A free pass at a 22 year old Demi Moore, and Norm from Cheers doesn't take it? Impossible. She eventually cheers up though, and they head to some wharf. Cue the "taking pictures" montage, complete with a soothing lite-rock track from Rupert "Pina Colada Song" Holmes. And then they crash a Greek wedding and get loaded, and then Demi lipsynchs a tune very badly . Oh, and while they were out having ice cream, they passed by Mona(Jennifer Tilly) Charles's initial love interest, who was playing Ms. Pac Man.

At the end of the night, they stumble back to Laura's place, and when they get there, she reverts back to her whiny, self-pitying behavior, which somehow prompts Charles to take the several thousand dollars in portrait money he'd earned (he was saving up to go to photography school in Milan or something) and get taxicab ads plastered all over town with Laura's face and phone number on them. Since the tagline of said ads is "She's the Best", people naturally assume she's an escort. Her phone is ringing off the hook, and dudes are chasing her down the street. So, she's pretty pissed. She shows up at Chuck's school and lays into him.
"Just stay away from me," she growls at him. "You're a weird kid, you know that?"

Charles calls up a reporter and gets the whole dumb story in the newspaper, and suddenly, Laura's the hottest ticket in town. Jake shows up and convinces her to sing at the club again. She caterwauls through "My Funny Valentine" while a dude plays the keytar. Crazily, everybody loves it. Meanwhile Charles, despondent over Laura, wanders around in the pouring rain wearing a garabage bag, looking for diseased hookers to kill him.

So, will a hooker stab Charles to death? Will Laura's new lite-jazz direction take the country by storm? Will Charles come to his senses and realize that goofy Mona is his true love? Will Bobcat Goldthwait and his retarded brother win the boat race?

Oh yeah, wrong movie. That's really the problem with this one. One Crazy Summer is the same story, just funnier and cooler. But still, given the cast, the crazy mish-mash soundtrack (Twisted Sister, Rupert Holmes, Zebra, Fiona, Malcolm Mclaren), and some decent Demi side-boob, No Small Affair is definitely worth a look.

PS: Jennifer Tilly got way hotter after this.

Availability: No Small Affair is available on DVD.

Clip: No Small Affair trailer.

- Ken McIntyre

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