Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day One Hundred and Eleven - Career Opportunities, "Proof positive that an era can end."

If there is one truth about movies in the 80's, it's that John Hughes was the master of the coming of age teen dramedy.

Be it Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller... Hughes was gold when it came to tapping into the zeitgeist that was adolescent ennui in the age of Cyndi Lauper, INXS, and Bananarama. So much so that I doubt anyone who grew up in that era would argue any different and anyone who was born too late would be instantly beat down in any internet fight if they said otherwise.

But there's a flipside to the argument, because once he left the zaniness of the 80's, the market changed rapidly and, where Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson were once the gods of the Brat Pack, the 90's demanded a more real and gritty take on growing up, preferring Reality Bytes and Empire Records to Baby's Day Out and Home Alone.

I sort of weep for Career Opportunities. Not only did it come at the wrong time, but it was trying to bridge the gap between the old and the new, straddling the stylistic canyon between checkered suits and grungy flannel shirts.

The story is very much a slant on what Hughes did a year before with Home Alone, just with a pair of teenagers in a department store instead of a precocious kid in his own house. Essentially, Jim Dodge (played by Frank Whaley, who really isn't leading man material) IS Kevin McAllister, just older and a brunette... but the endless tirade of lies and manipulations that come out of an eight year old's mouth are cheap and really rather pathetic from a young adult.

Jim is the Town Liar. It's obvious from the start when Hughes has him almost playing to the audience and breaking the fourth wall till we see he's regaling the dogs of an animal shelter with his fantasies. He spins his tales to a trio of pre-teens, who believe and revere him, while the rest of the town is wise to his tricks. He's a born loser.

Josie (Jennifer Connelly) is the spoiled rich girl whose idea of "doing anything" to get her father's attention consists of attempting to shoplift but chickening out. There's also a seedy undercurrent of physical abuse that you never see but is hinted at without any real drama, very much to the detriment of the movie. Instead of Judd Nelson's "carton of cigarettes" monologue from The Breakfast Club, we get Josie in monotone to Jim confessing her dad "beats her ass." No drama, no impact, just bleh.

Together, the two of them get locked into the local Target (the Big Red Dot being a new and weird thing back then) and proceed to spend the night goofing off and bonding until a pair of murderers and thieves somehow manage to break inside in a way that is never actually explained. This is especially disconcerting considering the movie expends several scenes on the notion that Jim and Josie can't get out.

The entire premise and all its little sundries are laughable. Where I could get behind Ferris and his trip across Chicago, even crashing a parade float... I cannot for one second believe in Jim and Josie, either their separate issues or their instant concrete bonding. This is especially true when Josie goes Stockholm Syndrome with one of the robbers and the last fifteen minutes of the film becomes a version of Die Hard.

I feel really bad for Jennifer Connelly in this film. She's obviously too beautiful for the room and there definitely isn't much to chew on in the script. Anyone with a brain can see she's just being used for her ample rack here. Sure, she was pretty much just starting out at this point, but OH MY GOD am I thankful her agent got her in Dark City, Requiem for a Dream, and A Beautiful Mind instead of more crapfests like this.

Her, I can forgive. Hughes? Not so much.

Plot holes, superfluous scenes, useless melodrama away from the action (Josie and Jim's respective fathers and their sleepless nights)... you can definitely see why this particular entry into Hughes' catalog never comes up on anyone's lists. I most certainly recommend that everyone stay away unless they're feeling masochistic and want to go through his entire film repertoire... all the way up through Drillbit Taylor.


Though, I will admit that it was fun to see racks and racks of cassette tapes again in their annoying white plastic security cases to keep folks from slipping them in their pockets. Freaking hilarious. It did beg the question, though, of how exactly Josie and Jim pried them out to play in the various HiFi's of the store.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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