[box cover]

The Rachel Papers

If Ferris Bueller had been English — and if he'd been on a quest for his dream girl, rather than the perfect day off — he might have ended up a lot like Charles Highway, the wryly charming hero of the '80s romance The Rachel Papers. Clever, creative, and prone to addressing his audience directly, 19-year-old Charles (played by Dexter Fletcher) certainly owes a debt to America's favorite teenage illness-faker, but the movie he finds himself at the center of is ultimately very different from Ferris's odyssey of fun. Actually, in a way it's almost more like Matthew Broderick's other big '80s flick: War Games. Charles, you see, is a trail-blazing computer geek — but instead of using his cutting-edge equipment (ooh, floppies!) to bust into the Pentagon, he uses them to get girls. Loathe to leave anything to chance when it comes to potential conquests, Charles uses his "foolproof" computer program to analyze each mark and come up with the best methods of seduction, from targeted apartment décor to carefully outlined dinner conversation. But all the planning in the world can't help Charles when he falls for Rachel (Ione Skye), a beautiful American girl who at first isn't inclined to give him the time of day, much less her number. Persistence and charm eventually pay off, though, and Charles soon discovers — like many men before him — that the reality of romance can pale in comparison to the pursuit. Not before he gets some, of course. The film offers some fairly racy love scenes (Ferris and Sloane never took naked baths together!), as well as plenty of shots of Skye's R-rated assets — enough that, if you're not a teenage male, they start to feel a bit gratuitous after awhile. That, combined with director Damian Harris's occasionally uneven storytelling, detracts from Fletcher's engaging performance and Skye's earnest appeal. But The Rachel Papers is certainly fresher and more interesting than much of the teen dreck the United States was putting out at the end of the '80s, and to its credit, it never panders or talks down to its audience. Toss in Jonathan Pryce in the comic-relief role of Charles's brother-in-law Norman, and you've got a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon. MGM's two-sided DVD offers both anamorphic (1.85:1) and full-screen transfers of the film; both are clean and look good. The Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround audio is strong; English, Spanish, and French subtitles are available, as is the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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