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AN ECLECTIC BRATFUL BAGFUL OF ROB LOWE CINEMA

year: 1985 rating: ***1/2
Rob Lowe was the likable mannequin of 1980's cinema... His films and performances range from comatose to vigorous, and either defined the Brat Pack decade or got lost in video rental abyss... So let's take a look at a few of Lowe's eclectic cinematic endeavours, years before rebooting his career as a dramatic television actor...

ST. ELMO'S FIRE: A group of college graduates, a few months after leaving the cozy nest of dorm life, wind up on their own in the big city yet still have each other to depend on: Thus in 1985, when the so-called “Brat Pack” was in full form, ST. ELMO’S FIRE was the navel-gazing follow-up to THE BREAKFAST CLUB as Judd Nelson plays Alec, the group’s shallow mentor, a hopeful in politics who switches from Democrat to Republican because the pay is better. His girlfriend Leslie... another CLUB alumni Ally Sheedy... doesn’t want to get married – a wise choice since Alec has the philandering sex drive of a Kennedy. And Emilio Estevez’s Kirby takes the lightweight mantel: he’s smitten with a gorgeous doctor (Andie MacDowell) and tries everything to land a date.

Rob Lowe as Billy
The artistic bookends are two polar opposites: Andrew McCarthy’s Kevin is a hopeful journalist while the “still partying like he’s back at school” Billy, a scene-stealing Rob Lowe, plays sax and women despite having a wife and child. 

Demi Moore’s Jules is the most enjoyable... She’s as wild as Lowe's Billy and, having an affair with her boss and a penchant for cocaine and good times, her girlfriends, including mousy Mare Winningham's rich kid Wendy (hopelessly in love with a womanizing Lowe, providing the most intriguing "romance"), doesn’t understand what makes her tick… like an inevitable time bomb! Leading to a heartfelt conversation between Lowe and Moore, which includes the meaning of the film's ambiguous title. Director Joel Schumacher’s script never lets the clich├ęs rest and the dialogue's far too contrived to seem completely real. But by the end there’s a feeling you really know these people – although you might be torn whether to hug or slug them.

year: 1986 rating: *1/2
YOUNGBLOOD: Hilariously banal ice hockey version of ALL THE RIGHT MOVES has Rob Lowe as an American playing for a Canadian team.

He's got a tough coach played by character actor Ed Lauter, some rowdy teammates including Patrick Swayze, love interest Cynthia Gibb (who just happens to be the coach's daughter), and older bro Jim Youngs teaching him how to fight like a real man, despite resembling an Elvin supermodel. The filler dialogue goes absolutely nowhere, and the action on the ice, cutting back and forth to the locker room, kills any rivalry-driven suspense. It's like watching a soap opera while surfing sports channels, or vice versa.

Rob Lowe can act, but not here. And prepare to witness Keanu Reeves, who has a difficult enough time performing in English, speaking French!

year: 1983 rating: ***
CLASS: Two movies for the price of one... The first has Andrew McCarthy as a shy freshman at a strict Ivy League college, meeting confident rich kid Rob Lowe and dealing with his practical jokes. Lowe has a lot of energy here, and makes for a worthy antagonist-mentor. The second has McCarthy, after striking out with girls his age, hitting the big city with Lowe's money and advice: to find a real woman and get laid.

Well he does, but with Lowe's mother: gorgeous forty-year old Jacqueline Bisset. And while the sex scenes are overlong and overdone, as if they remade THE GRADUATE more steamy than implied, the May/August relationship is involving.

But when both stories collide... McCarthy and Bisset hiding the truth from her son, and his best friend... things get overcomplicated: making one yearn for that first movie dealing with college life banality.

1987 rating: *1/2
ILLEGALLY YOURS: It's sad when you track down forgotten films by a great director, in this case Peter Bogdanovich, and cannot find a trace of what made them great. TARGETS, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, PAPER MOON and SAINT JACK are nowhere to be found here: It's basically a revamp of WHAT'S UP, DOC? with Rob Lowe filling in Ryan O'Neal's shoes, a handsome dolt donning nerdy glasses, while Colleen Camp plays the Streisand independent-woman-in-trouble role role.

YOURS is a whole lot of silly running around with nowhere to go, and while Bog started his career channeling Howard Hawks, Samuel Fuller, Alfred Hitchcock and (his once close friend) Orson Welles, he ended up making keystone cop silent films with sound and absolutely no purpose... What's up, Pete?

year: 1984 rating: *
THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE: Arguably, this was Lowe's lowest point, and Jodie Foster's too... The film adaptation of John Irving's fantastic novel centers on the eccentric nomadic Berry clan but focuses mainly on the teenage son, played by Rob Lowe, and daughter Jodie Foster, during the purgatory stage of her career, two sexually curious, coming-of-age middle children (both infatuated with a sexy bear suit wearing Nastassja Kinski) of a quirky Beau Bridges who runs the hotels with an ever-optimistic look on life no matter how many bad things happen.

The book delves with casual irony into subjects like terrorism, rape and incest, getting away with turning a glib cheek to all things taboo (including homosexuality, which wasn't as discussed in the early/mid eighties). An abundance of overly obvious symbols, like, for instance, a dog named Sorrow, works in the novel because it's strictly thematic and never forced. But on the big screen it comes across pretentious and silly, par for the course of this particular motion picture.

HOTEL was probably made because of the success (and brilliance) of Irving's THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, a much easier narrative to translate: it's at least about something, or rather, someone. And while GARP centered on a mainline story with tragic weirdness surrounding it, this centers on weird tragedy with no real story to be found: in what might possibly be the worst adaptation ever made.

year: 1990 rating: **1/2
BAD INFLUENCE: Here we go again... A wimpy, passive guy who seems to have everything he wants, only he can't stand up for himself. Has no guts and is secretly dying for a mentor to show him the way...

Enter a confident drifter who turns his life around, and around and around and around some more.

James Spader, breaking from his villainous yuppie template, is the nice guy. Rob Lowe, fresh from a  scandal that would ruin his career for a while, is the rogue helping Spader score a beautiful lady and progress in his job: but with a price. He can't shake Rob loose, and eventually is enveloped in an extremely ironic sex tape scandal, a beating, and then a murder... The first half is Film Noiresque and builds nicely. The last half, as Lowe turns from dapper sociopath to full blown psycho, becomes your typical kill or be killed fare.

1986 rating: **1/2
ABOUT LAST NIGHT: By far the most energetic duo of ST. ELMO'S FIRE was the bad boy and the bad girl. That being Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, who, only a year later, have all grown up...

Which is the first flaw of ABOUT LAST NIGHT, yet another Brat Pack venture that expects us to see twenty-something going through a mid-life crisis, and trying to figure out about a life that they're already well weary of.

That's not to say NIGHT doesn't have good moments. The chemistry between Lowe and Moore, playing two busy professionals living in Chicago, is engaging enough... For a little while...

It's interesting how Lowe's character has to be described as too handsome to be hanging around single's bars. Instead of finding the right angle or opening line, he simply implies his intentions are good while "beating 'em off with a stick," making him a guy not everyone can relate to. Which provides the scene-stealing regular guy Jim Belushi, as Lowe's exposition spouting crony, a chance to grab the spotlight... but he's not alone...

Rob Lowe
Playing Demi's girlfriend is Elizabeth Perkins, who a few years later would prove a decent leading lady in a tale about a man who is really a child: the polar opposite of this movie.

Perkins is like the supporting "fun gal" from classic comedies while Belushi, as everyone's favorite drunk uncle, are a combined color commentary on an otherwise dull pretty boy/pretty girl matchup.

Of course the title ABOUT LAST NIGHT... refers to the awkward moment when "victims" of a one-night stand bring up what had happened, and those three following dots imply that something extends from that particular night where the true romantic entanglement/adventures exists. But other than the comic relief co-stars providing the only real honest evaluations of sex and... more and more sex... what we're left with is an awkward silence with plenty of background noise. Although every once or twice, if you really listen, there's something to be heard, and learned, herein.

1984 rating: **
OXFORD BLUES: It's difficult if impossible to root for a guy who has everything going for him. Even if Rob Lowe's character is a climber that really wants to get the girl, and has to travel across the Atlantic to win her heart, his confident leather jacket wearing gigolo is so unsympathetic, you'll find yourself rooting for the bad guys...

And they're not so bad, really, just a conceited bunch of British rowing jocks at Oxford University that have no trust in Lowe's Nick Angelo... The only person in his narrowed corner is fellow brat packer Ally Sheedy as Rona. Despite the second credit she's merely filler, providing the ingenue spotlight to dreamgirl Amanda Pays, who, as Lady Victoria Wingate, doesn't find it too hard to be attracted to the perfect looking "Ugly American," and there's little to no chemistry between the duo since there's hardly any problems in the first place... That is if you don't count a few snobby Brits led by future WARLOCK actor Julian Sands, trying his very best to add something, anything, to pick up the lethargic pace.

What OXFORD BLUES has going for it is the sport of rowing, shown in gorgeous exterior shots of a picture/postcard England, and an eventual ROCKY fashioned underdog vibe that, although given some potential early on, wags itself to sleep since our hero, hardly up the creek without a paddle, has very little obstacles to be either interesting or relatable.

1988 rating: *1/2
MASQUERADE: Finishing our retrospective, not including THE OUTSIDERS which will be covered at another time and place... In MASQUERADE, Rob Lowe’s Tim Whalen has all the advantages of a good-looking sailboat aficionado but without any money.

That’s where Meg Tilly’s Olivia Lawrence comes in handy, although their mellow romance feels legitimate and not of the gold-digging nature. Tim seems smitten with the breezy heiress, who only has a wicked stepfather to contend with. Enter a potentially good villain played by the always interesting John Glover – which doesn’t last very long…

The romance between Lowe and Tilly are what dreams are made of… sleep, that is. Their drowsy affair is reignited with several twists having to do with Lowe not being who he seems. Meanwhile Tilly, perfectly cast in THE BIG CHILL, seems in a dizzy daze throughout. It’s like she either forgot how to act or just didn’t care. And future MELROSE PLACE resident Doug Savant, as a lovelorn local cop turned something unexpected, is a pale replacement for the villainous Glover, making this a Neo Noir melodrama that lacks… well... just about everything.
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