Going with a personal favorite featuring an out of the usual role from a 1980’s megastar who dominated both the box office and the tube during the decade of Reaganomics:
THE FILM: Bright Lights, Big City
THE YEAR: 1988
THE STARS: 80’s icon Michael J. Fox, the pre-Jack Bauer version of Kiefer Sutherland, and a short haired pre-Mrs. Kevin Kline version of Phoebe Cates.
THE PLOT: Based off the book by Jay MacInerney, young Michael J. is a dude who enjoys the night life of the NYC enough to put his job in jeopardy. You’ll get 1 3/4 hours of dude trying to mix Sutherland-aided clubbing and cocaine snorting with keeping his gig. In the process he gets in public spats with his estranged wife (Cates, who again decided to shed some serious hair for the role), throws himself romantically at a co-worker (played by versatile Swoosie Kurtz) and turns in a track star performance trying to avoid his very own brother (played by the television version of Ferris Bueller, one Charlie Schlatter.) One can probably figure out if dude was still employed by film’s end.
THE ADDITIONAL STAR POWER: I forgot that the legendary late Smith Barney spokesperson John Houseman made an appearance yet remembered the young Fox throwing down with another late legend Jason Robards because Fox did a lot of that during this movie. Better yet this was my first time getting to see Kelly Lynch on film. No complaints there. For additional trivia purposes, as per this web link on the film one David Hyde Pierce of Frasier fame makes his movie debut as a bartender. Not a bad lineup of past, present and future stars in the mix.
THE REASON THIS FILM IS MEMORABLE TO ME SOME 30 YEARS AFTER THE FACT: The 1980’s was a time where Michael J. Fox seemed to match star power with the sons and daughters of MTV like his namesake the late Michael Jackson and Madonna as well as his fellow NBC icon of the time William H. Cosby, PhD. (And yes, I didn’t expect the man who I spent my youth watching as a Jell-O product pitchman on TV to have bigger problems than making the film Leonard Part 6). After seeing this Fox being a dominant comic figure as Alex P. Keaton in Family Ties before making the blockbuster Back to the Future movies, I remember going to the theaters to see one of the previously reviewed movies on this blog (either this one or that one) and low and behold there’s a preview of a film featuring drugged up Michael J. Fox ready to make its mark at theaters nationwide. Pretty much the polar opposite of Marty McFly and the young Republican known as Alex P. Hence the film fell into the ‘well, I’ll check it out since I probably won’t have a date for the next three or four presidential administrations’ category once it hit the video stores with this unsobering glossy of Fox on the video box cover shown here:
Fortunately for me I would end up actually getting dates before my non-illustrious Sonland High School career ended (including ironically enough with a local Fox). Oh…back to the film: if one wants to take more than a few seconds to evaluate Michael J. Fox’s acting skills, this film is a good place to start. Back then the rotund 15 year old version of me was going to shit on a movie that wasn’t a comedy or had a hot chick or two in it. While Lynch nailed the hot chick part of the checklist for me, I found that I was able to watch the whole movie and say ‘man, dude’s f—-d up’ just as much as I asked myself ‘just what the f— did Cates do with her hair?‘ (Obviously the hair thing was something I pondered because I preferred her with long hair a la the days of Fast Times at Ridgemont High). As a result I not only finished watching the film in whole but still will watch it whenever it’s showing on TV to this day. If one wants a good example of how to crash and burn while being young and residing in the New York City of the 1980’s, then I would point to this Fox performance as a good place to start.
Keeping with the tradition in rating those tapes worth playing in the VCR, yours truly gives it a Fitzthoughtsblog rating of 3 OUT OF 4.
Additional film promo photos via the Interwebs:
Happy weekend to all and thanks for reading.