Thursday, 7 July 2011

Film Review: Take Me Home Tonight

Society expects your life to follow a path of orderly progression; finish school, get a career and have a family, only to eventually retire and be supported by the next generation who will do exactly the same. However, this traditional cycle appears to be breaking as young twenty-somethings delay the transition from childhood to adulthood. Sociologists have dubbed this phenomena the 'changing timetable for adulthood'. It is this tenet which Take Me Home Tonight flirts with, a film that has been shelved since 2007 allegedly for its portrayal of recreational cocaine use.

Matt Franklin (Grace) has just graduated from MIT with a degree in engineering. Returning home to LA and living with his parents, Matt works in a video-rental store while he waits for his future to clarify itself. When he re-encounters his unrequited high-school crush, Tori (Palmer), he lies about working at Goldman Sachs to impress her - despite there not being a branch in LA. Still smitten, Matt follows her to an end-of-summer party hosted by his sister's (Faris) yuppie boyfriend, accompanied by his derelict best-friend, Barry (Fogler), in what promises to be one hell of a night.

At its heart, Take Me Home Tonight is about a kid so frightened of putting a foot wrong in life that he collapses into a ball of inertia. It's not necessarily a new concept; eighties classics such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club, and more recently Adventureland, hit upon similar themes of directionless youth. However, there are a couple of particularly poignant scenes which hit closer to home than others have done. Take Me Home Tonight fails though on the understanding that, foremost, this is supposed to be a comedy. That's not to say it isn't 'funny', but it generates more of a subdued amusement rather than continuous laugh-out-loud moments. This is mainly due to a dialogue which is not as sharp as it perhaps could have been and a poor execution of otherwise sound scenarios.

Grace and Palmer don't sparkle, but they do nonetheless make a good pairing in that generic kind of way. Their relationship is about as formulaic as you can get in a rom-com, falling prey of that tried and tested device of romance, crisis and reconciliation. It is a grand tradition in films of this nature for the main lead to engineer a ridiculous scenario to impress a love interest, only for the end of the second act to have that obligatory moment of confession. Cue the third act of trying to save lost love. As for Matt's comic foil, Fogler is more than adept at the bawdy role. However, you do get the sense that the part of 'fat cretin' is becoming an overcrowded market with the likes of Jonah Hill and Zach Galifianakis having pretty much made the role their own. How many more of these will Hollywood churn out?

Upon first glance this might be a film that will appeal to the nostalgic forty-something demographic. In reality however it is not a film for those brought up immersed in eighties pop-culture. Rather it is a 'nostalgia'-fest for those who missed the boat the first time round and who now spend their time in clubs which put on 80s retro nights. Indeed, what really holds this film together is its induced nostalgia riveted with a fantastic soundtrack. Choices such as Kim Carnes' 'Bette Davis Eyes' and Duran Duran's 'Hungry Like The Wolf' do brilliantly to work succinctly with the mood and time of the film. Ironically however it doesn't feature the Eddie Money hit after which it was named.

But it takes more than a great soundtrack to make a great movie. To be fair, Take Me Home Tonight does well to capture the eighties yuppie culture of cocaine, fast cars and coveted materialism. It's setting and themes may well resonate with the twenty-somethings of today, but it remains precariously balanced on the edge of failure as a comedy.