Smooth Talk Joyce Chopra

Smooth Talk Joyce Chopra
This indie artefact of the '80s (from a story by Joyce Carol Oates) was fairly well-regarded in its day, copping the top prize at Sundance and some better than average reviews, but its power has dissipated to the point where it now seems banal. Laura Dern is a typically self-absorbed 15-year-old girl who's at once curious and frightened by the opposite sex; she fakes trips to the mall so that her parents don't know that she's secretly flirting and making out with older boys. There are few surprises on this front, with the boilerplate sensual innocence made all the more prosaic by Joyce Chopra's blandly unobtrusive direction, turning the first hour little more than coy eyewash. However, Dern's forays into the young adult world catches the eye of sly predator Treat Williams and his arrival blasts the movie through the roof — the final third is a masterpiece of sexual tension as he shows up at her house, tries to coax her into taking a ride with him and churns our heroine's mixed emotions into a foaming lather. Few films capture the fear and desire of sexual awakening as well as this sequence does, and Williams pulls out all the stops in creating a character that oozes a contrived but spectacular charm. Alas, it's the only scene that shows and doesn't tell, and clearly belongs in a different, better movie. This is offered in a dual-sided full-screen/widescreen edition with no extras, not even a trailer. (MGM)