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Blame it on Rio

Movie still

Director: Stanley Donen
Screenwriter: Charlie Peters, Larry Gelbart
Starring: Michael Caine, Joseph Bologna, Demi Moore, Michelle Johnson
Release details: 20th Century Fox, USA 1984, 100mins
Full details: IMDb
Genre: Comedy (ostensibly)
Rating: 2 out of 10

Stanley Donen began his directing career at the tender age of 24, co-directing On the Town with his long-time directorial partner, Gene Kelly. He also co-directed the greatest musical of all time - Singin' In the Rain - and, on his own, the peerless comedy-thriller, Charade. How sad it is, therefore, that he should sign off his movie career with this grubby little piece of exploitation.

Caine and Bologna play two middle-aged men for whom the spark has gone out of their love lives. Caine might be divorcing his wife (a cameo from Valerie Harper, TV's Rhoda); Bologna is already single again. They decide to take a trip with their teenage daughters to Rio de Janeiro to get away from it all. Caine ends up being pursued by Bologna's daughter (Johnson) and gives in to the temptations of her 18-year old charms, then desperately tries to let her down gently and extract himself from the situation without getting caught by Bologna or his own daughter (Moore).

Older man-younger woman pairings are not new in Hollywood. The romance between Catherine Zeta Jones and Sean Connery in Entrapment was ridiculed until it became clear that Jones was, indeed, a fan of men whose pension plans had already kicked in. But, although the thought of Catherine and Michael could turn the strongest stomach, she's a mature woman and not a teenager.

Not since the 1950s and 1960s has it been acceptable on screen for an eighteen year old and a man over thirty to have a relationship. And at least in those days it was clear that Debbie Reynolds (or whoever) wouldn't be putting out before the honeymoon. Seeing a fifty-plus Caine with the barely-legal and woefully-miscast Johnson - who, just like a real teenager, seems to have assumed that being petulant is the same thing as expressing emotion - is therefore disturbing.

Even though no-one is more unsettled than Caine himself, their relationship is still just not quite right. Maybe if Johnson (in her first ever role) actually had a shred of acting talent it might not have been so bad, but she's flat and emotionless, giving no glimpse into why Caine's character might be attracted to her for any reason beyond the purely physical.

All that aside, the main interest is actually in the performance of Moore, in one of her earliest roles. She is not even remotely fooled by what's going on and there's a nice subversion of roles, by which she becomes parent to Caine's hormonally-charged child. I'm sure she's embarrassed now by having this film on her CV, but, given the quality of almost all her films since Ghost, maybe she shouldn't be.

She's not only the most cynical and world-weary teenager seen outside indie flicks, but her's is also - by some considerable distance - the only convincing performance. Of course, it's possible that "jaded nymphet" wasn't exactly a stretch for Moore, even back then.

Links

There's a fine collection of Stanley Donen links and information at Classic Movies.

Valerie Harper, who mostly concentrates on theatre work these days, has an official site which is actually full of interesting info on her film, TV and stage career, as well as an extract from her autobiography.

Did you know that Demi Moore was in the final three for the lead role in Flashdance?


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