21 December 2006 | mercuryix-1
"Money may not buy happiness, but it will buy the things that will Make you happy"
There are too many reviews of Risky Business for mine to have any relevance as a movie review. However, this movie is for me a time capsule of the era I saw it in, and a photograph of the future to come in American culture.
I saw this movie when I was 22 in a tiny college theater with a date. I remember several disconnected things about it: The movie was much more interesting than my date was, the music by Tangerine Dream was hypnotic and fit the tone of the film, which struck me as being more depressing in places than funny (although there are some funny moments in it), and it gave me a glimpse into a world that I thought was fictional. It turned out I hadn't experienced the world it was presenting yet. When Cruise asks his friends what they plan to do with their lives, one's answer is very simple and focused: "Make money". Another friend adds: "Make a LOT of money".
It turns out the movie was precognizant of the next ten to twenty years of American culture; the absolute obsession with making money through any means necessary, legally or illegally, regardless of consequences to yourself or others. Then taking that money and buying the things that will make you happy: a porsche, a big house, and most importantly, a hot babe in your bed, that will only be there as long as the money is. Internally discovered happiness? A quaint notion created by the poor who can't afford the toys that validate your existence.
I am sure that the filmmaker would be the first to say that the movie parodies the hollowness of the "American Dream" of acquiring wealth to buy creature comforts, but too much of the time it feels like it celebrates them. At the end, the hooker stays Cruise's girlfriend only as long as he continues to make her money; she even says "I'll be your girlfriend...for a while". Real loyalty there. But then, she is a hooker, and is being honest. She in fact is presented as the only person in the film that is not a hypocrite. She has no illusions that money & sex make the American world go 'round, and doesn't pretend herself to be otherwise; unlike Cruise and the rest of his friends. In the end however, she is still hollow, the values the kids pursue are hollow (they are only after sex, not love), and the movie feels as deep and solid as a glossy magazine ad for a Lexus.
Even over the obsession of greed, however, the film illustrates the complete alienation of the modern American teenage male: alone, isolated, judged by his peers with the kind of car his dad lets him drive, his clothes, and whether he can get laid or not. The emphasis is on sex, not relationship. There is no rite of passage into adulthood, no guidance from parents who more often than not are as distant from their children as the cardboard cutout parents in this film.
In short, as depressing as this film is when you step back from it, it paints a frighteningly accurate portrait of how superficial and narrow a world, yet directionless (except for accumulating superficial wealth) a young boy's world can be. There are no values taught in this film, because there are none available as examples. And that is the environment too many kids are subject to. That is what was so disturbing to me about the film at the time I saw it, yet it took 20 years to understand why (as I was, like most kids my age, in the same vacuous and bankrupt culture this kid was in at the time).
There are 300% more suicides committed by 14 year old boys in America than any other age group or category. This movie explains why.
Seven stars, not for humor, but for photographing the beginning of an era that lasts until this day. The message from Enron, WorldCom, Martha Stewart and others for American kids will be: Don't get caught. A message which is slowly becoming the only "moral direction" left in American culture.