Still [Heart] the 80s? It's Take Me Home Tonight


Take Me Home Tonight
Directed by Michael Dowse

The neon-colored, big-haired, awesomely 80s Take Me Home Tonight is full of your favorite recycled Simple Minds songs and denim vests. But that's not what makes the movie feel outdated: because the movie, completed in 2007, was shelved for four years (possibly due to its many, many scenes depicting cocaine usage), all of the actors look strange-because they're younger. Anna Faris dons a horrific brown wig and she and her swollen, pre-tucked face are not shy about close-ups; her love interest, Chris Pratt (now her real-life husband) wears a pale blue popped-collar polo over a torso distractingly fitter than the one displayed on the last three seasons of Parks and Recreation. And Topher Grace plays a 22-year-old, though he's by now past 30 (but still looks 17).

In many 80s-set comedies of the last few years, "The 80s" has been a character in itself. The references to Devo, background extras in giant headphones, and frayed Foreigner 1981 East Coast Tour t-shirts provide filler jokes to propel weak plots. (As in, for instance, Hot Tub Time Machine, last year's neon-colored, big-haired, awesomely 80s comedy.)

But in Take Me Home Tonight, the amount of references to Regan and attention paid to hairspray is minimal (well, aside from that hair-teasing montage early on). The humor is tame compared to the dead goats or strange suicides of actual 80s movies, like Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Bachelor Party. And I only counted three seconds of boobs. Three!

But though the sense of humor is different, Take Me Home Tonight does feel like a movie of the 80s, not a movie about the 80s, at heart. There is the cast of characters that, like their Breakfast Club ancestors, don't learn any shortcuts for living. There is the familiar, simple love story between a nerd and a pretty girl that everyone understands probably won't last long, so none of it is taken too seriously. And to boot, there is a climactic speech that puts words to every act of poetry in the classics (stereo lifting in Say Anything, warehouse dance in Footloose, and strange, wind-tunnel crisis in St. Elmo's Fire), summing up how hard it is to have graduated from an elite college and expect to be happy entering the thankless workforce these Me-generation kids were never warned about. Watching this makes one emotionally—rather than aesthetically—nostalgic for the era.

Take Me Home Tonight follows three 22-year-olds at the worst of times in a privileged person's life: Matt (Grace) has yet to put his MIT degree to use because he doesn't know what he wants to do; his twin sister Wendy (Faris) is dipping her feet in the grad school application waters, and best friend Barry (Dan Fogler), hitting true rock bottom, gets fired from his job selling cars and doesn't have a college degree or supportive parents to fall back on.

The three don blazers, pack wine coolers and head to a Labor Day Party in the San Fernando Valley. Like many one-crazy-night movies before it, our protagonists socialize around the soft turquoise glow of a SoCal swimming pool and trash the sprawling front lawn of the party house with toilet paper and empties. There's a guy sitting on a couch strumming a guitar and a drunk girl who tells him he's awesome. We, being seasoned by Can't Hardly Wait and Superbad, know that the credits won't roll til the sun rises, someone pukes, someone else has sex, and guitar boy gets his instrument smashed.

Like in many a movie that takes place in the course of one night, each character has a desire that needs to be met by sunrise. Matt needs to get the phone number of his high school crush Tori (played by the charismatic, direct Teresa Palmer), Wendy needs to break it to her boyfriend that she applied to Cambridge for some sort of creative writing program, and Barry needs, as it seems, to lose himself. By the time the sun comes up, each character is the same, still not having achieved greatness and still living with the folks. But, they did achieve the ultimate in young adulthood according to every 80s movie you love: living life to its fullest for a night, and then going back to not know what to do with yourself in the morning. I much prefer this approach to postcollegiate angst to The Graduate, to be honest.

Take Me Home Tonight isn't about The Girl and it isn't about achieving Greatness—it's about white people being confused about what they want out of life. And that's something that most people who pay to see a Topher Grace movie can relate to.


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