Picks and Pans Review: Vision Quest

updated 03/11/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/11/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

A Hollywood hybrid, this is a jock movie arguing that it is every American male's inalienable right to go for it. At the same time it's a coming-of-age movie that believes a young man's virginity is best dispensed with through the aid of an experienced older woman. Vision Quest could get annihilated in the cross fire of formulas, but it doesn't. Although it religiously honors the touchstones of both genres, director Harold (Taps) Becker's film insists on finding something fresh in the formulas. When high school wrestler Matthew (Birdy) Modine decides to face down a state champ in another weight class as a personal challenge, he disrupts the camaraderie of his team. And when newcomer Linda Fiorentino, an aimless but fearless 21-year-old, moves into the house Modine shares with his father, a mechanic, he must ponder his sex drive as well as his takedowns. It's that impertinent, imperfect love affair that gives the movie its conflict and chemistry. As the boy and young woman try to sidestep sex and each other, the movie manages to be funny and feisty about adolescent affection. As the tunnel-visioned hero, Modine finally has a role that really suits his quirky talents. In his previous outings, he came on like an ethereal, asexual refugee from the Vienna Boys Choir. (Even in the print ads for Vision Quest Modine is presented as a bare-chested candidate for crucifixion.) But this movie gives him a much needed counterpoint and foil in Fiorentino, who neutralizes the clichés of her role with integrity. Modine and Fiorentino give their scenes together a nervous tension and an honest humor that is momentarily mesmerizing. Becker, however, doesn't do anything to effectively showcase those performances or the clever script that novelist Darryl (Cinderella Liberty) Ponicsan adapted from Terry Davis' first novel. Becker doesn't have a tremendous aptitude for sports movies—he doesn't even show the scoreboard at crucial moments—and he doesn't give the relationship between Modine and Fiorentino breathing room. His crudely edited movie looks as if only every other page of the script had been included. But the two stars transcend the formula, even when the direction doesn't. (R)

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