Johnny Has Feelings
So while I was busy not keeping my promise to blog every day (ha, THAT was stupid) some stuff went on. Here’s what:
I saw the movie The Ghost Writer, in which very bad things happen to not one, but TWO writers who are hired to write ghost write a politician’s memoirs. Though I’m not a ghost writer, I could relate, especially to the part where the writer has two weeks to finish the book. I decided it would behoove me to follow his example (not the part where he tries to solve the murder of the former writer) and try to finish the book I have due. Which should explain my lack of blogging.
Starting a new series (the book I’m finishing up is ABANDON, the first book in my next YA series, due out next spring) is huge . . . but so is having a new book in my other series come out THE SAME DAY that book is due! (Allie Finkle #6, Blast From the Past, hits stores 9/1.)
So, basically, I’m a little distracted right now, with no time to do anything but write and, of course, re-energize by watching delicious movies.
This brings me to the movie RECKLESS, which was just released on DVD by Warner’s Archive Collection.
In case you aren’t familiar with RECKLESS, it came out in 1984 and starred Aidan Quinn (it was his first movie ever!) as the misunderstood rebel Johnny (he has FEELINGS!) and Daryl Hannah, just coming down off her BLADE RUNNER high (1982), but before the release of SPLASH (which also came out in 1984), as the spoiled cheerleader Tracey Prescott.
RECKLESS also starred a then unknown Jennifer Grey (of Dirty Dancing fame) and was written by also then unknown Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire). It was rated R for RACEY TEEN ROMANCE.
Warning: Do not watch this movie if you are sensitive about seeing things like Daryl Hannah and Aidan Quinn running around in their underwear, hitting each other with large foam things, because THIS HAPPENS. (There is also full frontal nudity on Aidan’s part, and quite a lot of steamy premarital sex. It was the eighties!)
I don’t think I can describe to you quite how much I loved this movie as a teen. Unfortunately, there seem to be few other Reck-hards. RECKLESS never seems to be played on TV, not even cable. I barely even remembered what happened in it, I hadn’t seen it in so long, because it was never released in DVD or even VHS, as far as I knew.
So the minute I saw that it had, I bought it, even though it cost an astounding $26.99. As soon as it arrived, I threw it onto my DVD player and settled down to watch.
Isn’t it funny how some things that you remember as being REALLY INCREDIBLY GOOD from your childhood don’t necessarily stand the test of time? I’m talking about Peanut Buster Parfaits from Dairy Queen, of course. Have you had one of those lately? I used to have one of those every single year on the first day of school, just to celebrate having survived not losing my class schedule, and EVERY SINGLE TIME that thing made me throw up.
(A better back to school treat would be Allie Finkle #6, Blast From the Past. It will not make you throw up, although someone does throw up in it. JUST A WORD OF WARNING TO SENSITIVE PEOPLE.)
Watching RECKLESS was quite a blast from the past, let me tell you. I would never say that it was a disappointment.
But I AM saying I think I know why it’s never played on TV anymore. And it’s not because of all the INCREDIBLY HOT SEX SCENES between Tracey and Johnny. Those are still SMOKING!
Let’s see if you can figure it out for yourself why they don’t show it on TV:
In RECKLESS, Daryl Hannah, as spoiled rich girl cheerleader Tracey Prescott, enjoys driving around the drizzly grey (unnamed) steel town in which she lives, usually to INXS tunes and with the top of her convertible down (who cares if its raining? Tracey doesn’t. Because Tracey is different), playing chicken with whoever dares her. Usually who dares her is Johnny. Johnny is different too. JOHNNY HAS FEELINGS! SO MANY FEELINGS!
This is why they belong together. Duh!
Tracey has a nice boyfriend played by Adam Baldwin (no relation to the Baldwin brothers). Adam, in case you’re curious, spent most of the 80s getting the crap beat out of him in various movies. Maybe you’ll recognize him:
My Bodyguard —Adam plays the bodyguard. Crap beat out of him.
The Chocolate War—Adam plays Carter. Crap beat out of him.
3:15—Adam plays Skip. Crap beat of him.
Reckless—Adam plays Randy Daniels. Sorry to say, crap beat out of him!
It’s possible Adam gets the crap beat out of him as Stillman in Ordinary People, but I can’t remember. You might also remember Adam from Chuck, where he may or may not have gotten the crap beaten out of him. Adam is also in the new release of Halo where, I presume, he gets the crap beat out of him.
Adam: Thank you. From all of us. You may not be the leading man, but you have let your face get beat in by the leading man in many movies for over 20 years, and for that, we salute you.
Of course, we aren’t supposed to think Adam is nice, because he’s kind to Tracey, and wants to get a steady job after high school graduation working at his dad’s steel factory, as opposed to Johnny who wants to GET OUT OF TOWN after graduation, and who also drives a motorcycle, and who also sneaks into the women’s restroom in the bowling alley to have sex with the waitress there on the sink during her shift. Obviously, she enjoys this immensely, as any busy bowling alley waitresses would.
Randy, in contrast, asks Tracey politely if she’d like to chastely make out with him in her convertible in the bowling alley parking lot. Tracey tells Randy to stick it up his ass (not in so many words).
Randy, take a cue from Aidan Quinn. Women like to do it on dirty sinks. Geesh.
Naturally, Tracey and Johnny hook up. This happens in the most awesome way imaginable. Tracey, a cheerleader, and Johnny, the quarterback (his only hope of GETTING OUT OF THAT TOWN is if he gets a football college) are randomly paired up by the student council, and then required to go to the ‘Tin Can-Can’ dance together (whatever that is. Who cares?) for Spirit Week, or something.
Randy is appalled! His precious flower might be touched by that nasty freak JOHNNY! How will she bear it?
Tracey is intrigued. She’s not sure, but she THINKS Johnny might have feelings.
Johnny prepares for the evening by soaking a white carnation in black ink to give to Tracey.
BLACK. INK. This, of course, is totally awesome.
It then transpires that Johnny’s dad works for Randy’s dad at the steel factory. And that Johnny’s mom—who apparently last had her picture taken when she worked as a cigarette girl in the 40s, even though this movie takes place in the 80s and Johnny is 17 or 18—has left Johnny’s dad, and that Johnny’s dad has since become a raging alcoholic and also likes to date prostitutes.
It’s really no wonder Johnny has so many feelings.
The TIN CAN-CAN dance.
JOHNNY THROWS THE CORSAGE RANDY HAS GIVEN TRACEY ON THE FLOOR AND TUCKS HIS BLACK CARNATION INTO HER RED DRESS.
And Tracey’s all, looking down at this black thing on her dress, “Black?”
And he’s all, “Yeah. Black.”
But that’s not all. Oh no. Because not only that, but Johnny says a bad word, announces she shouldn’t expect him to stick around, rips the schmaltzy record they’re playing off the record player, and puts on Romeo Void’s Never Say Never.
I distinctly recall that it was at this point in the Von Lee Theater in Bloomington Indiana in 1984 that my heart exploded with joy.
Then Johnny grabs Tracey, and basically starts dancing with her in that adorable hunch-shouldered punk rock way that guys used to dance in the 80s (my husband still dances this way. Only like 8 guys in my entire school danced that way, and they NEVER showed up to school dances, only the kind of parties where people usually got hit in the head with fire extinguishers).
And Tracey LIKES it (of course), because it shows Johnny is DIFFERENT.
Until Randy freaks out and grabs Johnny and throws him to the floor. You can watch this entire scene here. If you don’t choose to watch this scene, well, all I can say is, you are missing out on a piece of American cinematic history, and I feel sorry for you. Because it is INSANE!
Obviously, at this point, RECKLESS achieves a level of perfection it can’t possibly sustain, but it definitely tries, at least for a while.
Clearly Tracy and Johnny are going to Do It, and I don’t think I’m really giving anything away if I tell you that they do. Only first they trash the principal’s office (no one said they were role models). Then they hit each other with giant foam things (what? I know. Just go with it).
Then they Do It all over the place. In the gym. In the boiler room. In the pool. In Tracey’s room. In Tracey’s mom’s room. In Tracey’s living room. Under the coffee table. Maybe some other places I forget. It’s basically awesome.
Which makes it so much less awesome when they stop Doing It.
The reasons Tracey and Johnny stop Doing It are myriad. For one thing, Tracey is a little bit of a snob, and Johnny lives on the Wrong Side of the tracks. She doesn’t want anyone at school to know she’s Doing Him. Especially Randy. Because she knows how many other movies he got beat up in, and I guess she’s protecting him, or something, from getting beat up by Johnny. I’m trying to give Tracey some credit here.
But it’s also Johnny’s fault, because even though he HAS feelings, he can’t communicate them very well. So he gets a little weird, basically showing up at Tracey’s house ALL THE TIME, and pretty much stalking her, instead of just doing her on the sink, which would be way more awesome. You can tell Tracey is thinking this. She’s like, Johnny, just stick to doing me, okay?
But Johnny has some pretty serious problems. For instance, he gets called out of the middle of class all the time and asked to come pick up his dad from work because his dad is so drunk, they’re worried he might fall into one of the huge uncovered vats of molten lava they have bubbling away, as factories so often do.
(HINT: THIS IS FORESHADOWING ABOUT SOMETHING THAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN LATER.)
Nowadays, if an employee was drunk at the steel factory where they had giant vats of uncovered molten lava, the company might send him to rehab (hopefully), or at least fire him. Back in the 80s, they apparently just called the guy’s son at school, and forced him to come pick his drunk dad up.
Since Johnny didn’t have a car, he had to strap his dad to himself (with chains), then drive him home on the back of his motorcycle, his dad squealing with drunken glee (I know I would do this if I were strapped to Aidan Quinn with chains).
So, it’s kind of no wonder Johnny doesn’t want to work at the steel factory after graduation.
You can almost see the look of apology in the actors’ faces as what happens next starts to unfold. I’m pretty sure someone at the studio was like, “These kids are too happy, just running around, having all these feelings and sex in the boiler room and hitting each other with foam sticks! Someone needs to die . . . in a vat of molten lava!* Make it happen!”
*See Dante’s Peak, where grandma’s legs burn off in a lake of acid as Linda Hamilton and Pierce Brosnan sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” while escaping from an exploding volcano.
So poor Chris Columbus had to go along with it, and suck all the fun out of the story for a while.
You would think the coach might have understood why Johnny missed practice that one time his dad fell into the vat of molten lava at work and died, if Johnny had just TOLD HIM that’s what happened.
But no. Johnny doesn’t tell him. Because Johnny has too many FEELINGS to verbalize them. So Johnny loses his football scholarship.
Naturally Johnny is despondent over this, and so becomes a stark raving lunatic who not only stalks Tracey, but holds her over the side of a cliff because she doesn’t understand his FEELINGS (because he won’t talk about them) and won’t go out with him anymore, slicing open her cheek (admittedly by accident and he does apologize but seriously, it was a cliff, so not cool).
Johnny’s feelings build up to such a boiling point that he then sets his own house on fire (but it’s OK because who needs something as conformist and boring as a house? Only people without feelings).
Finally Johnny drives his motorcycle into the school (as one does) in one last desperate plea to get Tracey to talk to him (which she won’t do because she’s terrified of him, and every time they try to talk, the only way he can express himself is to point out that he has feelings, which we already know because he’s mentioned it previously).
Inside the school, Johnny finally finds a way to verbalize all his feelings (he does so in the middle of a pitch from a guy urging the senior class to join the Army. I am NOT kidding. The two options in the unnamed steel town in which they live are, apparently, join the Army, or go work in the factory with the uncovered vats of molten lava people can fall into if they’re drunk).
Tracey forgives Johnny for holding her over the cliff, and agrees she has feelings for him too.
But they don’t have time to process those feelings right now, much less get their diplomas, because Johnny has to leave town RIGHT AWAY (with what appears to be the five dollars that he took from the box in which he keeps his mother’s photo from which she was a cigarette girl in the 40s) for some reason (possibly because of the pending arson charges) and he needs her to come with him.
Tracey’s like, “What??? But I don’t have my makeup with me, just the credit card my mom gave me to buy stuff for college which she’s probably going to cancel if I run away with you and then I won’t be able to buy more makeup.”
Sadly, driving his motorcycle into the school has caused Johnny to attract the attention of Randy. Randy is tired of putting up with Johnny and his crazy antics.
So Randy expresses feelings by hitting Johnny with a chair.
This is a bad move on Randy’s part. Because even though Johnny is able to verbalize his feelings now, and should be able to talk things out with Randy, and does try to do so, Randy is still played by Adam Baldwin.
Then, the big finish (don’t read if you don’t want spoilers):
Tracey jumps onto the back of Johnny’s motorcycle, and they ride off together into the sunset (with nothing but the five dollars Johnny took from the burning house, the clothes on their backs, and the credit card Tracey’s mom gave her) to Bob Seger’s Roll Me Away.
And everyone in the whole school (except Randy) cheers for them!
And you kind of find yourself cheering for them, too. Because it turns out, YOU have feelings too!
Personally, I am still waiting for the sequel, Reckless 2: Johnny Stays Home with the Twins While Tracey Stars In Splash!.
Reckless: Two Tiaras