Elle Severe Presents

An Officer and a Gentleman

In Movies on January 5, 2012 by Elle Severe

A few weeks back an email exchange between myself and two close friends brought to light that fact that one of them had never seen An Officer and Gentleman.  This was of great concern to me because An Officer and a Gentleman is on my personal list of Best Movies Ever.  I took this very personally and considered this to be an egregious enough of an offense that I leveled an ultimatum:

“You have precisely ONE WEEK to watch this movie and report back to us on why it’s one of the greatest movies ever.  I expect you to comment on how hot Richard Gere looks, the music, Debra Winger’s mad acting skillz, the best friend Lynette and most importantly, pick out some key, iconic quotes.  Make sure that within the next 7 days you are able to speak on these this cinematic masterpiece with knowledge and feeling.  And if you think I’m being too tough on you, be grateful that I’m not making you watch Terms of Endearment or Urban Cowboy too.  I feel sad that I have to do this, but now that I’m a parent, I know that sometimes you have to force people to do things FOR THEIR OWN GOOD.  Now get on Netflix and get you some classic 80’s.” Her response to my ultimatum:

“For the first time in 18 years I have homework. And for the first time in 25 years I’m going to do it.”

For the next seven days I obsessively checked my email for an update.  I wanted to see if this film touched her the way it touched me. Exactly on Day 7 I received an email with the subject line “Challenge accepted and completed”.  Inside was the following:

“Review: I bumped my usual Gilmore Girls dvd for An Officer and A Gentleman.  Seriously, watch it, they are so witty. Well, it had pretty much everything that the 80’s had to offer.  Cheesy music threaded throughout the movie, karate bullies and Filipino prostitutes.  I was back in junior high all over again only this time I was more focused because I wasn’t wondering if Albert Anderson liked me or not.  I’d like to bring attention to a few key words/phrases that I think should be brought back into my vocab, or added since I probably did not say these things…ever: Cherry boy, dick brain, sweet pea, sugar britches, bodacious tatas, you eyeballing me and skull fuck you to death.  Well, maybe not the last one but it did make me laugh in the right situation.  I actually hope to have the opportunity to ask people “Where have you been all your lives? An orgy??”.  A few of my thoughts: The half naked lady in the kitchen when Zack was little could put curlers in her hair but not underwear on? Why was the new recruit wearing a camera? Did he think it was a timeshare vacation? Richard Gere was hot.  Reminded me of a young Ryan Phillippe.  Loved that Paula and Lynette stopped in the middle of the lane to switch driving and not pull over…wouldn’t want to waste any time just for a little safety.  Putting buttons on boxers was a brilliant idea.  You can climb a wall just using a rope but you can’t shine a belt buckle? All and all I really liked it so much I watched it twice.   I loved the end and could picture you and Paul reenacting the awkward Lynette slow clap.  Nice.  Well worth the rental.  I always thought I would watch it someday just didn’t think that I would have a deadline.”

I was very happy that my friend had completed her assignment and I was doubly happy that she agreed with my assessment.  I told her she made my day.

My own Officer and a Gentleman awakening was not forced by a friend via an ultimatum,  but rather through a conversation overheard in the back seat of a steaming, hot car in the summer of 1982.  I was very young and  at that young age I had no desire to see a romantic military movie.  BUT, my Aunt Nancy, who to this day STILL calls me Bunny, and no, you may not, was driving me and my mom somewhere; Nancy was 10 years younger than my mom, was in AA before AA was cool, did Jane Fonda aerobics (even running errands in a leotard tights, leg warmers and headband, all matching, of course), read crazy books about being from other worlds and having past lives, smoked, always wore cool Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, took me downtown to buy my own cool jeans (and would always say, “I used to spend my money on booze, now I spend it on you Bunny!”) and my Hello Kitty stuff and then we’d have English pizza at this place called Ruggles in Downtown Crossing.  I miss that pizza like crazy.  They used cheddar instead of mozzarella and had this special called The Prince and His Baby Garden.  This was a personal sized pizza with a small side salad for $4.95.  I always got my pizza with nice ham topping (additional toppings back then were like 0.05 cents).  Oh my God I miss it.  I have tried to recreate this pizza many times in my life and have failed each time but always end up with a nice mash of pizza dough, cheddar cheese and ham, which is never a bad thing.  Anyway, the point is that Aunt Nancy was COOL.  She always had boyfriends and roommates and whatnot.  So she was driving us somewhere and my mom was in the passenger seat and I was in the backseat.  Back then kids roamed freely in the backseat.  No p*ssy booster seats for us, awwww hell no! And seat belts were not even IN the backseat! We were free! We were LIVING! Before I go on, one thing to note about Aunt Nancy was that she had the same exact voice as Fran Drescher and she snapped her gum constantly.  Not on purpose.  She had some sort of a cap on one of her teeth and every time the gum hit it, it made a snap sound.  It was super cool.  Okay, so anyway, they were chit chatting and then Nancy lowered her voice.  This was my queue to scoot forward so I could hear them because even at that age I instinctively knew that anything whispered was going to be really juicy.  Plus I couldn’t bear to be left out of anything.  Naturally my gentle, nurturing mother whipped her head around and snapped at me and was like “Excuse me, can you sit back please? You’re breathing right in my ear!” – no delicate flower that one.  Nancy starts to tell my mom about this movie she just saw and she says in full on Fran Drescher “ohhhh Die-annnnne, you have gotttttt to see this moooo – veeeee. Ohhhhh myyyyyy gawwwwwd.  Richid Gee-yah is in it, and ohhhhh myyyyy gawwwwdddd, Die-annnnne, his fucking assssss in his unee-fohm, ohhhhh myyyyy gawwwddddd it lookss amayyyze-zing I wanted to mumble mumble out right they-ah” and right then and there I vowed that I needed to see this movie ASAP.  I had no idea what movie it was but I was smart enough to know I could figure it out.  The following week at the local movie theater I noticed a movie poster with a handsome guy in a military uniform, according to poster his name was Richard Gere and I knew in that moment that I had just hit the jackpot.  This was the movie those two had been whispering about.   I was not a very sexual little girl, BUT, I had already been in love with Ponch from CHiPs (Erik Estrada) and my next door neighbor Paul (like Ponch he was also a cop, but he was BPD, not CHP) so I knew immediately that the flush and warmth spreading through my body was signaling that I was now in love with this Richard Gere guy.  I wasn’t able to sneak into that theater that day, but years later when I was a teenager and I finally saw it, I thought “Nancy, you brilliant bitch, his ass in his uniform does look amayyyyyze-ing and I definitely want to fuck his brains out right they-ah”.

From the moment this movie begins you know that it’s going to bring some sh!t and that shit is going to get real and fast.  The main character, Zack Mayo, wakes up in a hotel room hung-over and nasty from the night before with hookers and his…DAD? Oh hells yeah.  Bring it.  He covers up a massive tattoo, why? The anticipation builds…he gets on his motorcycle…awwww, shiiiiiit, where’s he going??? And then suddenly he’s at basic training and standing in front of Louis Gossett Jr. who’s just so damn mean…but I think we all know that under that gruff exterior lies a man with a heart of gold: “Only two things come out of Oklahoma boy, steers and queers, which one are you?” – classic.  Within my friends review she touched on some of the more recognizable quotes but none more so than “bodacious tatas”.  Bodacious tatas is actually became iconic.  It’s right up there with “you complete me” –  except it’s not f*cking stupid.  And “skull fuck”? Yikes, that one is pretty awesome.  Immediately upon hearing that I filed it away in my “when I have to REALLY take care of business” file.  It was placed firmly in my arsenal of super nasty sh!t to hurl at someone should they mess with me. Being from Dorchester I expected to use it at least once before I left for college; I am happy to report I never used it.  But it’s still there, trust me.  A well placed “skull f*ck” could cut someone like a knife.

But I digress; the whole assignment I gave to my friend made me think that it was high time to bring everyone’s attention to this fine film.  I know it’s not exactly high art; and no, An Officer and a Gentleman is not the American Film Institutes top 100 movies of all time.  Though it is worth noting that it is on their list of 100 Most Inspirational movies; when you bring this up at the next party you’re at in attempt to look like a trivia master, go ahead and  throw in that it’s number 68 for authenticity.  Back to my main point, An Officer and a Gentleman is one of the best movies ever.  Just for a little back up, here’s what Roger Ebert had to say about AOAG back in 1982:

“”An Officer and a Gentleman” is the best movie about love that I’ve seen in a long time.  Maybe that’s because it’s not about “love” as a Hollywood concept, but about love as growth, as learning to accept other people for who and what they are. There’s romance in this movie, all right, and some unusually erotic sex, but what makes the film so special is that the sex and everything else is presented within the context of its characters finding out who they are, what they stand for and what they will not stand for.” See? Even Roger Ebert likes it.

This movie really has everything and anything you could ask for: Awesome sex scenes, a love story, a story about friendship, the military, an angry hardened drill sergeant, sexy military uniforms, a best friend from the sticks, a suicide, a fake pregnancy, a fight with the locals, great music, rain, heartbreak, heartache, and most of all, redemption.

In order for a movie to be one of your personal ‘best movies ever’, it has to touch something deep; it has to strike some sort of chord in your personal make-up; evoke a feeling, a time, or even a place that you may not even be able to full identify.  Maybe for me it was that I saw it as a teenager and wanted a love story of my own…I genuinely don’t know why this movie touched me the way it did.  Maybe it was very simply that my hormones were raging…what I do know is that I loved how gray the film was, I loved how sexy the character of Zack Mayo was and cliched as it is, I loved how he went from being a bad boy to a good man.  I loved that it ultimately became a love story about two people who were losers, but together they weren’t – together they were awesome.  The last scene of this movie may seem cheesy to you, but it’s not, and I’m not going to argue that with you, it just isn’t.

I’m not going to say much more about the actual plot of the film.  We’ve discussed it quite a bit and I have to assume that you’ve already seen it.  Unless you’re like my friend and need me to issue you an ultimatum.  In that case, open a new window on your Internet Explorer or your Google Chrome or your Mozilla Firecrotch or whatever the hell you use, go to Netflix, you’re probably already logged in, there you go,  type in ‘An Officer’ into the search box, my guess is that it came right up, right? Okay, now hit “Add”, now when you see the radial button for “Move to first” go ahead and click on that, ‘kay? It’s going to be okay, you’ll watch the third season of Always Sunny in Philadelphia next week, ‘kay? Relax, it’s worth it, trust me.

Some random facts regarding this movie: It was nominated for 6 Academy Awards, including Debra Winger for Best Actress.  It won two: Louis Gossett Jr. for Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Score for Up Where We Belong, sung by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes.  Not too shabby.  The role of Zack Mayo was offered to John Travolta, John Denver (WTF?), Eric Roberts (I’m glad he turned it down because, according to my studious internet research (IMDB) his agent didn’t think it would work because Eric is very sensitive and didn’t feel like the director would give Eric enough room to really express himself.  Hey jackass, we don’t want you to express yourself; it’s called a script, follow it.), Jeff Bridges, and Kurt Russell (Captain Ron).  While all of these gentlemen are fine actors, with the exception of the late John Denver, I truly believe that only Richard Gere could have played Zack Mayo; it would have been a completely different movie without him.  The part of Paula was offered to both Kristy McNichol and Brooke Shields.  I could buy Kristy McNichol in this part, but Brooke Shields? No.  She was too pretty back then and this is not a pretty movie with pretty people.  The right people were cast and those people made this movie.  The characters are gritty and raw and blue collar and needed to look as such – they are believable.  Poor Debra Winger was told by producer Don Simpson, “There may be somebody else for this part.  I need somebody f*ckable.  You’re not f*ckable enough.”  Well Don Simpson that’s not a very nice thing to say.  But you died in 1996 at the age of 53 of a massive drug overdose, so who’s getting the last laugh now? Mr. Simpson also wanted to cut “Up Where We Belong” from the film; he didn’t think it would be a hit. Well, it was. Let it be known that it went to #1 on Billboard, never mind that Oscar nomination…

In an interview with Barbara Walters, Richard Gere told her that he did the movie for the money.  That’s fine, I don’t mind (I have to assume that’s why he did Pretty Woman too) it worked out for him and for the rest of us too.  He made some money and we got an amazing movie.  Another fact about this movie worth mentioning is that Debra Winger and Richard Gere HATED each other.  Their mutual hate was the stuff of Hollywood legend and while I can’t understand it, I’m happy to report that hate made for some steamy on-camera chemistry, that’s for sure.

Side bar: In my research for this post I listened to “Up Where We Belong” at least 100 times; still holds up.  Awesome song…  “who knows what tomorrow brings…in a world where few hearts survive…”.  Go ahead, no one’s looking, download it real quick…I won’t tell.

All kidding aside, this is a great movie.  It’s an 80’s classic, but it’s also just a damn good movie.  Do yourself the favor, watch it.

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