Saturday, March 20, 2021

80's Watch - Watch Party: Footloose (1984)

Watched:  03/20/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1980's
Director:  Herbert Ross

Gee, why don't the young people want to stay in small towns?  How did we get to this divide between rural America and urban America?

I mean, Footloose (1984) is a story that seems ridiculous, about a town where "dancing" was made illegal (something that seems so slippery and un-First Amendment-y that it's breathtaking) and one not-even-rebellious teen who's mere existence as an "outsider" is so problematic adults are out to literally destroy him, that all of this seems absurd.  Except that this stuff was very real and happened.  Baylor University in Waco, 90 minutes up the road from my house, didn't allow dancing until the late 90's. 

So, yeah, small towns where no one was going to do much but stop to fill up with gas actually would and did have goofy rules.  This was Satanic Panic time that would culminate in the PMRC and Dee Snider of all people taking down a bunch of crusty representatives looking into literally regulating the music industry.  It was also the time of MTV, and I can just see a movie studio exec looking for a story that will appeal to a wide audience - but bring in those kids who like the MTV, and be very music-video-friendly.  

The movie is really a reminder that you don't want to live in a small town, because it is much harder to get away from dumb people if you're highly visible via existing.  Like, the movie ends with "Ren" (Kevin Bacon) beating "Chuck" and pals in a fight, but the reality is - Chuck is not dead.  Chuck is now going to spend his time nursing his injured pride - and he's already been housing Ren and throwing bricks through his family's windows (which Worst Uncle blames on Ren instead of his neighbors being assholes).  

There's certainly an argument to be made that Ren can lay low for a few months, graduate high school, and never see Bomont, Imaginaryland again.  The movie glosses over WHY Ren and his mom move in with Worst Uncle and Family, but from some comments, it seems his dad split some time back and he must have been getting in trouble in Chicago (easy to do).  But there's also a suggestion that he's aware he needs to be on the straight and narrow now.  I'd like to say people don't *really* hassle kids for being different, but I have my own friends who weren't 6'4" by the end of 8th grade, and so got their asses kicked repeatedly for basically being a Roxy Music fan in a town that loved Garth Brooks.  

The movie has some name actors.  It made Kevin Bacon.  Sarah Jessica Parker wasn't a star yet, but she's in it.  John Lithgow plays the love interests' dad and Diane Wiest her mother.  And both are weirdly understated and very good in their roles.  In fact, I'm not sure Ren - our lead - has a character arc, but his existence in the town drives Lithgow's whole family to reasses.  Lori Singer as the daughter seems to have a rich story that, kinda/ maybe/ shoulda been the real focus as the girl with dreams of getting out and a minister father who is crushing not just her, but a whole town, in the wake of personal tragedy.  Instead we get a few crumbs of character like "I wrote this bad poem" and the absolute certainty that she's going to be a real handful when she hits college, shaves her head and is absolutely up in everyone's grill about whatever topic is in the paper that week (I may have spent too much time on college campuses).

Lithgow's minister contains multitudes, I suppose, as someone who is both very much a party pooper, and also very much for some reason maybe for banning books but against burning them.  It's a tough set up as they don't adequately explain why one is okay and the other a problem when his own congregation gets the idea that this is what he wants.  And, lord knows, folks love a good book banning and burning "for the children".  Perhaps this is his character realizing "whoopsie, I went too far with the whole Everything Not Boring is The Devil stance".  That's certainly the indication.  I just feel like something kind of jumps from A to B to E there, and we needed C and D to really follow the minister's story.  

I'd kind of like to see the movie about the minister's family with Ren as a side character, but that is not how we do these things.  Not when we can show Chris Penn learning the power of DANCE.

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