16 November 2020 | rooprect
Could this be the world's first throwback 80s comedy that is NOT campy?
With a title like "1987" and a plot summary about a teen who spends his summer trying to lose his virginity, sneak into a bar, and get his 1st car, you'd think this flick would be ripe as a goofy 80s retro comedy full of bad clichés and even worse hairstyles, like every other 80s throwback flick you've ever seen. Surprisingly--impressively--it's not.
Writer/director Ricardo Trogi takes a big gamble by sidestepping the predictable 80s cheese and instead giving us an honest, realistic, and still funny, coming-of-age story for all generations. Don't get me wrong; it isn't boring at all. This flick is every bit as silly and quirky as you'd imagine, but its selling point is that it's NOT played as a campy in-joke, not like Napoleon Dynamite, Hot Tub Time Machine, or even the original 80s teen romps ("Ferris Buehler", "Sixteen Candles", "Better Off Dead") which were making fun of the 80s before the 80s even ended. No, here in "1987" the 80s is simply the backdrop, done in a very tasteful way. Yes, I was an 80s kid, and no we didn't ALL wear pocket protectors, parachute pants and ankle-tight acid washed jeans. Well ok the jeans part maybe.
Although the plot is introduced in a silly, quirky way, it soon evolves into a real story about a 17-year-old kid "Trogi" figuring out his life, yes driven by hormones, stupidity and the need to be cool, but also by an underlying maturity that gives this movie some real depth. For example, a recurring gag throughout the film is our hero's 14-year old sister who never comes out of her room and just yells periodic angsty phrases through the door at their exasperated parents. This gag could've been played as pure surreal comedy (like the hilarious young brother "Dodger" in "Better Off Dead"), but instead it takes an interesting, serious tone when our hero accidentally stumbles on her diary. It's a short scene, but it's full of depth as he narrates to us "it was the first time I realized that my sister was suffering some serious heartbreak". The film is full of little surprises like that, where you'd expect a silly punchline but instead you're given a dose of nice humanity. The characters are not 2-dimensional caricatures; each one has his or her own backstory. And even though we are only given little pieces, we can figure out that each person in this story could be a movie unto themselves. That's the mark of a really well made film, when even the minor characters are so interesting. Acting is FANTASTIC all around.
By the time the film ends, yes, you've been on a wild ride with a lot of silly hijinks and wacky teen behavior, but the payoff is how the film ultimately gives us a serious story under the guise of silly. It left me with a feeling of deep, nostalgic satisfaction, the way I felt after I watched "Stand By Me". That's something no 80s comedy has ever done for me. And the last line of the movie is absolutely brilliant, providing closure, context, and a bit of a teaser for the sequel "1991" which I'm definitely going to watch next. There is also a prequel called "1981", and all 3 films make up the autobiographical "Trogilogie" that follows Trogi over the course of 10 years. The other 2 films are somewhat hard to find, so don't worry if you have to dive into the middle here with "1987". This film gives us a complete package by itself.
P.S. Bonus points for a great 80s soundtrack, not the standard 80s-throwback-radio rotation but some lesser known gems like Quiet Riot, Pet Shop Boys, Marillion, Alphaville, Run DMC and Flock of Seagulls. The only thing missing was maybe some Falco.