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Pass the tissues...
An Officer and a Gentleman (DVD)
Member Name: fizzywizzy
An Officer and a Gentleman (DVD)
Advantages: Unbeatable romance, great acting
Disadvantages: Very predictbale story - but who cares, it's not a thriller!
For a long while I had the impression that "An Officer and a Gentleman" was a very cheesy film, the sort of film, in fact, that is the preference of Mills and Boon readers. Of course, I hadn't watched it at that point. Since my opinion of a film I hadn't seen was so strong it's surprising that something happened to make me watch it and to this day I can't remember what it was that spurred me to watch it, but I did. Having done so my opinion of the film is no less determined than before but it is now a film that I cannot praise highly enough.
Richard Gere plays Zack Mayo, recently graduated from college and newly enrolled in the American Naval Officers Candidate School. Zack has had a tough life, his mother committed suicide when he was young and he then spent his life with his abusive, alcoholic father. Zack doesn't find his 14 weeks training easy. He is a stubborn and independent young man who finds it hard to trust others and his intention to "go it alone" does not impress the drill sergeant, Foley.
Louis Gossett Jnr's portrayal of the seemingly harsh Foley is one of the high spots of the movie and earned him a much deserved Academy Award for best supporting actor. As the story develops the viewer's perception of this character changes and we see that all his apparent bullying and shouting is carefully considered to get the best out of his recruits.
Early on in his training Zack and his friend, Sid (David Keith), meet two young local women and they pair off. Sid and Lynette (Lisa Blount) throw themselves headlong into a relationship which is essentially based on sex. Zack and Paula (Debra Winger) embark on a relationship which is more controlled and deeper than that of their friends. At times the relationship comes under pressure because of Zack's inability to open up and this is in complete conntrast with Paula who finds it easier to trust others.
Lynette's discovery that she is pregnant is perhaps the key episode of the film and is one which has devastating effects, not just for herself and Sid but for Zack and Paula too.
While "An Officer and a Gentleman" is undoubtedly a romance it is much more besides. While the lead characters are a little older than those who you might normally associate with the genre, I would still say that this is a "coming of age" movie. From his fellow recruits, Sergeant Foley and Paula, Zack learns how to trust others, how to be part of a team and that he cannot take on the world alone.
On the downside, "An Officer and a Gentleman" is predictable - VERY predictable. The characters are stereotypical and do not offer up any surprises. You just know that Zack's father is going to be a good for nothing old drunk and you know instinctively that Foley is really a good guy and not the bully he first appears. However, the things that are done well are done very well. The acting is great - Louis Gossett Jnr and David Keith stand out in particular. The screenplay too is excellent. There is nothing here which does not need to be included and the sub-plots of the two couples interweave easily.
The locations (the movie was filmed at Fort Worden State Park on America's north west coast) are a major factor in making this a truly romantic film. When Zack and Paula spend the night together, they do so in a wooden house on the edge of the beach, so close you can hear the waves lapping against the shore. The decision that Zack would be a naval recruit, whilst not intrinsic to the plot, is an inspired one: the sight of Richard Gere in his white uniform is one that many women I know would find hard to resist. It is details such as this that add up to a romantic extravaganza which has me in tears every time.
Jack Nitzsche was nominated for an Academy Award for best original score for the movie but did not win. However the film did scoop best original song for "Love Lift us up Where we Belong" a song which is perfect for this movie even though it's not the type of thing I would usually listen to.
I wonder if people who are as sceptical as I once was would think differently if they knew just how highly regarded this film has been. Being nominated for 4 Oscars (and walking away with two) and 8 Golden Globes is no mean feat. This1982 romantic milestone is a film that I think will continue to win new fans and continue to delight those watcing it again. The old cynic becomes a born again romantic - so shoot me....every time I hear the closing line "Way to go, Paula!!" I feel a tingle and want to watch it all over again!
"An Officer and a Gentleman", 1982
Director - Taylor Hackford (husband of Helen Mirren)
Available on DVD from 7.99 Pounds and on video from 5.99 Pounds
Summary: No suprises but a romantic classic