Flickchart Comment #30: Career Opportunities (1991) vs. The Coca-Cola Kid (1985)
I don't think it would be out of bounds to state that most of us who engage routinely in cinematic discourse live somewhat of a lie. The same could be said of anyone who delves into any art form deep enough to begin to believe that their selections within their chosen medium are bred solely from a studied and intellectual set of criteria. Sure, it's fun to puff oneself up with pretension and attempt to convince others that the reason one attended a certain film was because of the director's mise-en-scène, the subtleties of framing used by a particular cinematographer, or one's appreciation for the underrated mumblings of the film's scruffy, cult figure of a star.
But, sometimes it just comes down to the boobs.
Possibly the truest models of the range of my youthful lust, Career Opportunities and The Coca-Cola Kid both came out within my twenties, and I saw them both in theatres. I saw The Coca-Cola Kid first, in what would now be described as an "arthouse cinema," but which was really the only true form of alternative movie theatre in my hometown at the time (they also showed pornos back in the day, so it was only part-time in its art leanings). And I didn't go to The Coca-Cola Kid for the boobs, but rather because the film had garnered some decent press on its way to being released in the States, and I wanted to see something different than that which I had been practically force-fed up to that point in time by Hollywood. (OK, I wasn't force-fed -- I qualified it with "practically" -- but when you are a film fanatic, you takes what you can gets sometime, and back then, Hollywood flicks were pretty much, outside of video, the only game in town.)
When Kid came out, Eric Roberts was young and freshly scrubbed and rather oddly interesting in his acting choices, and for a brief period, could actually get people to plunk down into a movie seat (briefly). He wasn't that great, but he could get you to pay attention. (My personal favorite film with him is Larry Cohen's truly absurd The Ambulance, where he is teamed up in the over-the-top but low-budget thriller with the great Red Buttons.)
I went to The Coca-Cola Kid with the hopes of seeing a halfway decent film... and I came out with Greta Scacchi on my mind. I have fallen in love a hundred times or so looking at a movie screen, and in that tiny movie theatre in 1985, the immediate object of that desire was Ms. Scacchi, so different from that which I was used to, but absolutely adorable. She also happened to be naked in the film, which cut out a lot of mystery (chiefly, answering the question "Would she get naked in a movie?")
Scacchi invaded my brain enough for me to rent Heat and Dust (one of the first Merchant-Ivory films I saw), and see White Mischief, Good Morning, Babylon and Shattered in theatres. After Altman's The Player in 1992, I pretty much lost track of her, but as she has matured yet still retained her classic Italian beauty over the years, I have caught her in a role here and there. And each one reminds me of when I first saw her in The Coca-Cola Kid, which still holds up as a fine, offbeat comedy to this day.
Career Opportunities, like many of John Hughes' offshoots, really doesn't hold up in the same way 20 years after its release in 1991, nor is it of the same quality by any measure of the Scacchi/Roberts film. At the time though, fresh off dragging some friends to Dennis Hopper's The Hot Spot the a few months earlier (which they hated), they at least agreed with me that the ample nude footage of Jennifer Connelly and Virginia Madsen were to be commended. All we knew is that the teen star of Labyrinth, whose name we really had not committed to memory, had truly grown up.
Then the poster for Opportunities showed up, and while I am not necessarily all that focused on what Zappa termed "mammalian protuberances" (I am an elbow guy), if ever there was a poster designed to sell tickets to me instantly at that moment in the universe, it was the one for Career Opportunities. If there was a guy in the theatre lobby in that period who saw that image and didn't dream of being in the same exact position that Frank Whaley was in that one-sheet (see above), then it would have been immediately evident the guy wasn't batting in even the same league, let alone team.
My friends, male and female, would have gone to the film even without the poster such as it was, since we pretty much were attending en masse any film with John Hughes' name on it. But, for the boys in my little gang, the poster made it a sure bet we would be there opening weekend. I distinctly recall being only mildly amused but roundly disinterested in the film outside of the actors, and Connelly's part in the film really can't be chalked up as a performance. Performance art, perhaps... but acting was not her strong suit in the early days of her career. In fact, despite her ample charms and the various means by which they are exploited in Opportunities (and yet, in a very PG way), her character was almost vapid enough to almost dispel the notion from my mind at the film's close that I adored her absolutely earlier in the film. Talk about a 90-minute stand.
Of course, I recovered my initial adoration once I was left to my own devices (ahem...) to reflect upon what I had seen in the film, and after The Rocketeer solidified my feelings later that year (playing the part named and designed in the original comic book after Bettie Page), Connelly became my gold standard for film beauty for a good decade. (At least until she read her Oscar speech a few years later from a piece of yellow legal pad paper. Improv is apparently not her strong suit...)
To recap: two beauties from my past, who have turned out to have lengthy, distinguished careers, starring in two movies that I watched a lot back in the day. In the end, as always, the overall quality of The Coca-Cola Kid tips the balance in its favor. See, it's doesn't always come down to the boobs. But it is a damned attractive way to reach such a decision.