Paul Brickman, writer/director of Risky Business, is one of those Hollywood enigmas. Risky Business was a very confident, stylish, well written and impressively directed film that performed well at the box-office. So why did Brickman go on to direct only one more film? (1990’s Men Don’t Leave with Jessica Lange)
I had my chance to ask him this question back in film school when he came to show the film and stayed for a Q&A. But I was a pretentious film student and I was trying to impress the cute girl next to me who had acted in one of my films but was way out of my league, so I asked him, “Can you speak about the motif of the sunglasses?” Brickman answered something about freedom and duality, but generally seemed a bit bored by the question, like he hadn’t given that much thought to it (although the film suggests the contrary, with so many moments devoted to the sunglasses). It’s a very interesting study to note when Joel (Tom Cruise) puts on the sunglasses and we hear that moody musical queue.
I could have asked him if The Graduate was an influence on Risky Business, which is another interesting comparison. Which is worse? Sleeping with your girlfriend’s mother or running a brothel out of your parents’ home?
In both films, we have a stuffy young man of privilege who is about to let a woman with no inhibitions teach him how to loosen up, although Risky has a positive, “cool” ending and The Graduate has Benjamin and Elaine looking scared in the back of a bus. Were these endings the product of their times? Two very different eras: the late Sixties and the mid Eighties — but yet both films pulled off the task of taking what was primarily a silly, commercial genre at the time and delivering a smarter film within that niche. I’m sure that a strong percentage of the audience went to The Graduate to see a wacky romantic romp with a hip soundtrack and to Risky Business to see a teen sex comedy with a hip soundtrack, but were surprised to find something very different.
Good Luck and Happy Writing,