Vision Quest (1985)

23 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Even though “Vision Quest” follows a routine that most sports movies follow, it’s still a nicely done, entertaining film about a high school wrestler who has two dreams that must come true before the movie is over. The first dream is to go to the state championship and take on the toughest guy on the mat. The other dream is to win the love of a girl who has come into his life.

The kid’s name is Louden Swain (played by Matthew Modine). He has dropped from 200 pounds to 178 to join a different weight division on the school wrestling team. He baffles the coach, but is determined enough to continue working out and lose more pounds to compete against the toughest wrestler in the state, named Shute.

As you can read, the protagonist is about as standard as a sports film can ask for, but Matthew Modine is a fine actor and does what he can with his attitude as an actor to make his character quirky and engaging, and therefore a nice leading man to follow.

On his side are Louden’s respectful father (Ronny Cox); an English teacher, Tanneran (Harold Sylvester); a wrestling coach (Charles Hallahan) though sometimes he feels negatively about Louden’s determination; and his best friend Kuch (Michael Schoeffling), a teenage punk with a Mohawk hairstyle and describes himself as “Half-Indian,” though he might just be going through a phase. All of these characters are not like the usual types you would see in most sports films. For example, the father in this movie is not scornful and skeptical; the coach isn’t entirely cynical; the best friend is an actual individual instead of a one-dimensional, loudmouthed idiot. They’re all fresh and original characters.

But then there’s the girl that Louden tries to win the heart of. Her name is Carla and she’s hands-down the best character in “Vision Quest.” She’s a 21-year-old independent drifter who stays with Louden and his dad while her car, which has broken down while passing through town, is being fixed. Carla (Linda Fiorentino) is a woman who doesn’t look at anybody the wrong way; just as they are. But at the same time, she still keeps her cunning attitude and uses it to see who is real and who is a phony. Maybe this could explain why, after Louden realizes he’s infatuated by her, she doesn’t question why he sniffs her panties when he thinks no one Is looking. She doesn’t confront him about it; she waits it out to see what he’ll do next before passing judgments. What develops is a sweet relationship that doesn’t revolve around sex, but with trust. By the end of the film, you have to wonder what will happen for them in the future. That’s where the real suspense is; not just with the big match at the end.

We know that Louden will reach down to the weight limit to fight Shute, we know that they will fight in a big match with a large crowd watching, and we know there will be certain complications beforehand. But the twist is that those complications are uncertain when we follow Louden and Carla as their relationship grows. Now I have to confess something—as I mention this relationship (and continue to think about those remarkable supporting characters), I change my rating from three stars to three-and-a-half stars. I guess what can be said about “Vision Quest” is that if a seemingly-tired genre film is written well and acted beautifully, it can redeem the subject matter.

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