I watched Risky Business (1983) again recently, and like many young men who grew up in the 80s and 90s it’s an iconic film in many ways. The film was made at a time ‘teen films’ were really becoming popular and ‘teen films’ with sex in – even more so, despite a lack of quality in some of them (Porkies etc…)
As the leading UK script consultant and online script writer for hire, watching the film again it’s even clearer now that this is more of drama than a comedy, it’s more stylish and clever than other films of the era, and in a way it kind of feels more European than many teen films made later by the likes of the late John Hughes. And I like John Hughes a lot…
Risky Business is a critique of American society (there – I just said that). Indeed it’s got more in common with American Beauty than it has with Weird Science, The Breakfast Club or Ferris Buellers Day off.
John Hughes, the king of teen films in the 80s was essentially an optimistic writer. Even in scripts where Hughes touched on some real teen issues, eventually he felt everything would be alright for the kids he’s writing about. Paul Brickman – the talented writer and director of Risky Business isn’t so sure.
So, here we have one of the films that launched Tom Cruise’s career, in the film we have some iconic Cruise moments (the smile, the shades, the dance). There are teen jokes and some great comedy. There’s Rebecca De Mornay, young, sexy, bright eyed, intelligent and in only her second role on screen. There’s music (I still listen to Bob Segar’s Live Albums). And in amidst all this there is devastating state of the nation – which feels the rot inside America, an America with absent parents, and an interest only in making money, whatever the cost.
When we think of films that defined the culture of greed in the 80s we might think of Oliver’s Stone’s Wall Street, the lovely Working Girl, Trading Places (a very funny comedy and social critique too, in a way) Baby Boom (which is also lovely) Ruthless People, and even, DePalma’s Scarface which was every yuppie’s dream…
Some of these films celebrate greed, money and excess without criticism. Risky Business should sit among these films as one of the foremost cinematic critiques of a decade only concerned with making money at all costs and the birth of an ideology which we’re still reeling from. Its part of the reason why the America of today has Guido the killer Pimp as president.
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire and script doctor for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on firstname.lastname@example.org or hire him on Peopleperhour
His directorial debut Markham will be released in 2019.