[box cover]

No Small Affair

"It won't be the last time she'll rock a younger man's world," boasts the newly coined tagline for the '80s teen sex comedy relic, No Small Affair (1984). The older woman in question is Demi Moore, the former Brat Pack actress who's recently (sort of) revived her flagging career by dating sixteen-years-her-junior Hollywood "It Boy" Ashton Kutcher. In this film, she plays a slightly older rock-and-roll temptress named Laura Victor, who ignites the bottled-up lust of virginal high school student Charles Cummings, played by perpetual romantic underdog Jon Cryer. Charles is an amiable shutterbug, who, like Laura, dreams of a big-time career in his chosen field, and he finds himself utterly inspired when he encounters the sexy chanteuse performing at a dingy San Francisco club run by a most uncomfortably amorous George Wendt. Unfortunately, Charles's unfettered exuberance gets him kicked out of the joint, but, undaunted, he tracks Laura down and proposes to shoot her. She assents, and they engage on a whirlwind photographic tour of the city, accompanied by the kind of blandly bouncy synthesizer score that died out when producers realized they could score their run-time-padding montages with mostly forgettable offerings from burgeoning pop and rock acts. This is progress. Meanwhile, Charles's home life is lousy; his divorced, but domineering, mother (Ann Wedgeworth) is shacking up with a lame balding guy (Jeffrey Tambor, who's still playing the same roles to perfection 20 years later), while his lothario older brother (Peter Frechette, now an acclaimed New York City stage actor) has returned home engaged once again, this time to a squeaky-voiced bimbo (played by, as was the fashion in the 1980s, Elizabeth Daily). This overwhelmingly libidinous behavior is supposed to make Charles's sexual awkwardness endearing, but his pursuit of Laura veers into creepy territory when he plasters her face and phone number on hundreds of taxis all over town. Because most of the men in her life seem to be pimping her out in one way or another, this makes Laura a far more sympathetic character, while relegating Charles to Travis Bickle-esque obsessive status (given the San Francisco setting, perhaps Scottie Ferguson would be a more appropriate cinematic stalker icon). But the filmmakers seem determined to deny her any shred of dignity, depicting her as a reluctant sex object willing to sleep with George Wendt just to keep her nightly spot at the club. Even worse, when she "realizes" that she's been leading poor Charles on, she favors him with a pity lay. No Small Affair is a seriously confused film that's undoubtedly attempting to ape the stylishly wizened feel of the previous year's Risky Business, which was buoyed by writer/director Paul Brickman's impassioned authenticity. With an able Jerry Schatzberg at the helm, and the great Vilmos Zsigmond serving as director of photography, this picture at least has a puncher's chance to transcend the genre's lewd trappings, but the script by Charles Bolt and Terence Mulcahy quickly sends the film to the canvas with its relentless muddle of (hopefully) inadvertently sexist notions. One saving grace is the panicked, nearly unsympathetic performance Schatzberg winds up getting out of Cryer, an undeniably gifted actor whose best has probably never been seen onscreen. As the object of desire, Moore is sexy but soulless, and altogether ridiculous when singing "My Funny Valentine" with the assistance of a full-voiced vocal stand-in. Curiously, she'd head down this unconvincing route again two years later in Savage Steve Holland's One Crazy Summer. Jennifer Tilly and Tim Robbins also appear in bit parts as high school students. Columbia TriStar presents No Small Affair in a decent anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 4.0 audio. Extras are limited to trailers for other Sony titles. Keep-case.
—Clarence Beaks



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