Fifteen-year-old Connie Wyatt (Laura Dern) may be too young to drive, but she's already driving the boys crazy. Her suspicious mother (Mary Kay Place) wants to keep her safely at home, but free-spirited Connie would ... more »rather while away the languid summer days hanging out with her friends and flirting with boys at the local burger stand. But when she flirts with an older, handsome and predatory stranger (Treat Williams), she isn't prepared for the frightening and traumatic consequences.« less
Scott FS | Sacramento, CA United States | 04/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based upon a short story by Joyce Carol Oates (Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?), Smooth Talk stars a lovely Laura Dern in her first 'big' role. Dern plays a young woman, Connie, who is at the difficult time in her life when she is making the transition between girl and woman. She meets a attractive yet slightly scary older man played by Treat Williams.
I suppose the plot could have been handled in a lurid, trite manner, but the direction by Joyce Chopra, as well as the fine acting by Ms. Dern and Williams, make this film rise above what could have been a fairly pedestrian effort in lesser hands.
We've all been in Connie's world, the world that suddenly presents itself when the tie to one's parents begins to loosen. We watch, and cringe, at some of the choices Connie and her friends face, waiting and hoping that all turns out well when she makes some poor decisions. Williams plays Arnold Friend ("A Friend") to unctuous perfection. In the story, he's 30 but tries to acts 18; Williams fits right in.
I'm not going to give away the ending, but let's just say that Connie's parents have real reason to be concerned about their daughter and the choices she makes. The film does end differently than the short story.
James Taylor was the film's music director, and some of his classic music is prominently displayed here.
BTW, this film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1986. It's a shame that a excellent film such as this just seems to slip through the cracks. A DVD is really in order.
Very highly Recommended! Get this film!
(A post script. I just learned (November 28, 2004) from the Ebert and Roper review program that Smooth Talk will be coming out on DVD!!!!!
Thanks to the person who made this possible. I have a VHS copy that was a video store reject.)"
Great acting Great movie
S. Mitchell | Tyler, TX United States | 12/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a senior citizen but this story and the acting brought up the feelings of when I was a teenager. A real tour de force IMO of what happens to a young girl and her awakening..the manipulation. The confused thoughts that are going thru her mind.
Old or young viewer can feel the emotion in both Treet Williams and Laura Dern as she both struggles with good and bad while he twists and turns to control her.
A small slice of life, but true and with excellent feeling."
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 09/18/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The cinematography is a real pleasure for the eye. Some of the scenes of the old farmhouse, the sky, and Connie (Laura Dern) just sitting on a porch swing doing nothing but musing to herself are exquisitely composed.
There are some awkward scenes in this film version of the famous Joyce Carol Oates story, "Where are you going? Where have you been?", mainly because the original short story was set in the 1950's and the film is set in the 1980's thus the James Dean posters in Connie's room, the fact that Arnold Friend (Treat Williams) is a James Dean look-a-like who drives a muscle car, and that all the high school kids hang out at the local drive-in seem out of place in the 1980's. And yet, even with the anachronisms, as an evocation of a certain time of life it still works.
Granted, most of the film is pretty much just a set up for the climactic smooth talking seduction scene that arrives very late in the film but that one scene is tremendous and well worth the wait.
The film does not go where the Oates' story went, rather it leaves things up in the air and allows the viewer to interpret the climactic scene in a number of ways. The not knowing whether anything did happen or not is strangely powerful though (and, as others have mentioned, Oates' herself approved of the ending).
My take on the ending: Its as if Connie has come up against someone capable of voicing and embodying her own inner desires and this experience allows her to confront as well as get a handle on the exact nature of those desires. So, its a coming-of-age moment (but one that may or may not have just been a fantasy).
The film has some definite weaknesses, but recommended because there are a handful of scenes that do capture that moment (here the summer between freshman and sophomore year) when some teenagers feel like they are ready to cross a certain threshold, but wise enough to realize that they are really not ready to actually cross it all the way. This film, cleverly, gives the viewer that exhilerating and frightening thrill of crossing into forbidden territory without actually having to go there.
So, recommended, but with a few qualifications."
A wonderful film
Andrea M. Lerum | USA | 02/11/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this movie when it premired on PBS in 1987. As a 16 year old girl, it totally meant something to me. What girl didn't sneak out and try out sexy clothes to see how she could entice a boy? What girl didn't find herself in an awkward situation with a boy? Girls of this era did run around the mall shrieking and flirting with boys. (I know I did!). Mothers warned of "that" type of boy who might hurt you, but they could never fully explain who "that" boy might be. Now that I'm older, I cringe at Connie's immaturity and how naive she is. 16 was the age where you thought you knew it all and could take care of yourself, until you ended up left alone in a movie theater parking lot. The chracter of Connie was about as selfish as they come, but what 16 year old doesn't think the world revolves around them? Laura Dern has fantastic body language and you can feel her awkwardness coming through the screen. The end was terrifying to me -- was she raped ot not? (Although, at 16, I naively assumed she just went on a car ride with Arnold! Yikes!) It wasn't until college that I actually read the short story and was horrified by the ending. Were we cheated in the movie? Hard to decide, but it wouldn't have been a coming of age movie if it had the true ending. Mary Kay Place was stunning as the bitter mom and Levon Helm was great as the simple dad. ("This is tuna fish!" "My own lawn chair, leave it out all night if I want"). The soundtrack -- James Taylor -- leaves a lot to be desired. However, you will hear Frankie and the Knockouts when Connie sings, "You don't want me....". A movie that represents the 80's well and a wonderful springboard for the WONDERFUL Laura Dern!"
College English Class Project
Richard Connolly | Weymouth, MA | 04/30/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I teach English and writing at a community college and used Smooth Talk in contrast to the short story, Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates.
Except for the ending, the film follows the original work but also explores more fully the relationships in Connie's life. Given that the movie first aired in 1986, it is unlikely that the public would have accepted onscreen a depiction of the violence inflicted by Arnold in Oates' version.
While discussing the short story, my students and I engaged in an electrifying exchange of ideas about Connie's innocence or lack thereof. All cited from the text to support their positions, most of which argued that she was sexually active and used her beauty to attract older boys.
Another student and I took the opposite position with equally strong evidence and passion. The movie resolves this issue when Arnold tells Connie that he knows she is a virgin.
For their research paper, students chose one of three topics, a biography of Oates, the true story behind the fictional work, and Smooth Talk, all done on line and properly cited and sourced.
The final project consisted of teams of three - one member from each topic - teaching the class via a multi-media, ten-minute presentation, again properly cited and sourced.
Based on the energy, interest, and quality of the work, this two-part assignment was the best educational experience of the course.
For full details, see homepage.mac.com/mr_connolly