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Film: Risky Business

Time of your life, huh kid?"

A 1983 teen dramedy staring Tom Cruise (in his first leading role) and Rebecca De Mornay. Joel Goodson (Cruise) is a suburban Chicago teenager obessing over getting into Princeton when not thinking about sex. When his parents leave him alone for the weekend, his The Casanova friend phones a call girl for Joel since Joel obviously needs to get laid. She eventually has a business proposition for him: He throws a party, introduces some of his horny teen friends to her associates, and she and Joel split a cut of the evening's proceeds (i.e., they turn his parents' house into a brothel for a night). From there, Hilarity Ensues. In the years since its release, it's best known for the scene of Cruise dancing around in nothing but his pink dress shirt to "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger which has been endlessly parodied, including by Cruise himself.

The score, dialogue, and cinematography give the film something of sophisticated, art-house feel in places, putting it a notch above the typical teen sex comedy. Roger Ebert compared it favorably to The Graduate. Be warned that in terms of narrative the genre conventions are completely played straight, so if you don't like modern teen sex comedies you probably won't like this one either.

Tropes used in Risky Business:

  • Adults Are Useless
  • Affably Evil - Guido. Except for the car chase and flashing a gun at Joel, Guido is a likable guy, and (in)directly mentors Joel in the finer points of business.
  • All Men Are Perverts
  • Anxiety Dreams - The film begins with one. Joel is very worried over whether or not he'll get into Princeton.
  • Bittersweet Ending - Joel wins his way into Princeton, and it's hinted that he and Lana are going to remain a couple. But Joel has become jaded by the ordeal, and isn't entirely convinced that Lana wasn't in on Guido's scam.
  • Bookends - The movie opens on Joel wearing his sunglasses and smoking a cigarette. Towards the end, having been exiled to yardwork by his mom for getting a crack in her beloved glass egg we watch as he slides on those shades and lights up, signaling how jaded he had become during his misadventures and that this had all been told in flashback.
  • Catch Phrase - "Sometimes you gotta say 'What the Fuck'."
    • Inverted by Joel's dad, who cleans it up when he offers that advice to Joel.
    • "Time of your life, huh kid?"
  • Coming of Age
  • Cool Car - The Porsche. There is... no substitute.
    Miles: Fuck you.
  • Cool Shades - look at that poster.
  • Dawson Casting - Joel and his high school friends are all played by actors in their early-to-mid 20s.
  • Deadpan Snarker - Lana
  • The Eighties
  • Erotic Dream - Joel's turns into a nightmare when he dreams that a SWAT team surrounds his house, with his parents yelling "Get off the babysitter!" through a bullhorn.
    • The movie opens with Joel saying "The dream is always the same"... and we see him finding a girl taking a shower in his house, asking him to wash her back. But when he reaches her, the smoke-filled bathroom leads into a classroom where Joel realizes he's missed his SATs and his life is ruined.
  • Focus Group Ending- Much like Pretty Woman, the movie was originally meant to be a Darker and Edgier exploration of prostitution, with Joel getting denied admission to Princeton and probably breaking up with Lana. The studio wanted a feel-good ending, and it was agreed to let a test audience decide which way the movie would end.
  • Hey, It's That Guy! - Curtis Armstrong, Joe Pantoliano, and Bronson Pinchot.
    • That was Richard Masur as the Princeton recruiter.
    • One of Joel's high school friends is Raphael Sbarge of Once Upon a Time (Jiminy Cricket) and Mass Effect (Kaidan Alenko).
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold - Lana, eventually.
  • Humiliation Conga - Joel rarely catches a break as one disaster follows another, culminating with his mom chewing him out for a tiny crack in that glass egg of hers. Then his dad lets him know he's gotten into Princeton.
  • Idealized Sex - Joel and Lana, especially the living room scene when the windows are blown open. Lana is apparently so hot, she somehow controls the forces of nature.
  • Ironic Echo - "Time of your life, huh kid?"
    • Miles' advice to say "What the fuck" is bookended by Joel's dad saying "What the heck".
  • Ivy League For Everyone - Considering Joel and his friends are coming from upper-income homes, there's actually a ton of pressure to get into Ivy League schools, with Joel having nightmares about not making it...
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin - Joel gets ragged on this by his friends, who pressure him into phoning call girls until he gets Lana...
  • Massive Multiplayer Scam - Joel suspects at the end of the movie that from the moment he was given Lana's number he was the mark for an elaborate scam: of Lana stealing Mom's glass egg, the accident with the Porsche, getting nudged by Lana into turning his house into a brothel, and Guido stealing everything from the house and forcing Joel to buy it all back. Lana's hesitant response to his question hints Joel might be right.
    • And Joel seems willing to forgive, because he knows he's learned from the experience, and it probably DID help him get into an Ivy League college. It helps that Joel also believes that Lana's genuinely in love with him.
  • Meaningful Name - Joel Goodson.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast - Guido The Killer Pimp.
  • Pimp Duds - Underplayed by Guido, who dresses much like a businessman except for the open collar and gaudy necklaces.
    • Averted by Joel, who goes trolling the streets of Chicago rounding up his friends as clients for Lana's brothel idea, with only Cool Shades as his signature style and otherwise dressed very conservatively.
  • "Risky Business" Dance - Trope Namer. This iconic scene is also an example of Harpo Does Something Funny — Cruise was just told to "dance to rock music."
  • Romance on the Set - Cruise and De Mornay lived together for two and a half years after meeting on the set.
  • Sex Is Good - pretty much any character who has sex for any reason ends up better off for it.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch
  • Star-Making Role - Tom Cruise. To a lesser but still successful extent Rebecca De Mornay. The movie also established solid character role careers for Joe Pantoliano and Curtis Armstrong. Bronson Pinchot might point to Beverly Hills Cop for his career break, though...
  • Toxic Friend Influence - Really, most of what happens is Miles' fault.
  • Wild Teen Party - Subverted slightly in that the house is still in one piece after the party... it's just that Guido the Killer Pimp stole everything the morning after just as the parents are due home.

Rescue MeCreator/Modern Video FilmThe Rock
The Right StuffFilms of the 1980sRock and Rule
Television PortalImageSource/Live-Action Films'Risky Business" Dance
Repo! The Genetic OperaTropeNamers/FilmRobin Hood: Men in Tights

alternative title(s): Risky Business
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