It is well documented that back in the 80’s my teenage heart belonged to Jennifer Connelly. Starting with Labyrinth I was smitten with her. I mean, cute girl hanging out with a bunch of Muppets, what’s not to love about that!? However, her adventure with the gang from the Creature Shop was not her first film. Predating Labyrinth by a year is our film today. It’s a movie that would pop up on cable tv from time to time, but I never got to see until now…1985’s Seven Minutes in Heaven.
Connelly plays Natalie, a brainy high school student who despite being drop dead gorgeous (my teenage crush, remember) has never really had a boyfriend. As we begin our story, her father is heading out on one of his many lengthy business trips (as in several weeks away). Insisting that she is too old to stay with her aunt, Natalie is given the run of the house. Enter Natalie’s friend Jeff (Byron Thames) who has just had another big argument with his stepfather and decides he’s gettin’ out of the house. Of course, he decides he should bunk with Natalie, which she somewhat reluctantly agrees to. Then we have Natalie’s other close friend, Polly (Maddie Corman), who pretty much spends all her time thinking about sex.
Natalie has big plans for her future, including aspirations of one day being President. In fact, she has a school trip to Washington coming up where she’ll get to actually meet the Prez. In the meantime, though, she catches the eye of the hunky James (Alan Boyce). The two start to get pretty cozy, which makes live-in third wheel Jeff a bit jealous. Of course, everyone around school starts to assume that Nat and James are going all the way…especially sex obsessed Polly.
Speaking of Polly, she starts to have a romantic adventure of her own when she meets a hot young professional baseball player named Zoo Knudson (Billy Wirth) at the local strip mall one day. He ends up flirting with her in a lingerie store and even buys her a skimpy item. Whoa! Time out here! She’s maybe 15…he’s got to be 20 something! Dude!! Well, needless to say, Zoo is a bit dense. He and Polly start corresponding by letter and she soon decides she’s going to head to New York to seek him out. Meanwhile, Natalie is having her own troubles when she learns that James is not the most faithful boyfriend in the world. Things start looking up for her, though, when she meets a handsome young White House aide on her trip to the nation’s capital.
Seven Minutes in Heaven does not feel at all like most of the other 80’s teen oriented films. In John Hughes’ fictional burg of Shermer, Illinois there were more than healthy doses of teen angst, but there was also a certain brightness to Hughes’ world. There seems to be a gloomy cloud hanging over this film. In fact, it doesn’t really feel like a “film” at all. The story, and its presentation, feels a lot more like an after school special or an episode of Degrassi Junior High…without the Canadian accents.
A major problem with the film is that it’s trying to be a sweet teen coming of age tale, but it comes off as more than a little creepy at times. Jeff seems to be somewhat obsessed with the idea of playing house with Natalie, not to the mention the fact that it seems like everyone in town, with the exception of the parents of the kids involved, know that he’s staying at her place. Polly’s relationship with Zoo, whether real or imagined on her part, is squirm inducing. Poor thing doesn’t seem to have any filter between her sex-obsessed brain and what comes out of her mouth either. In one scene she just blurts out to an older man she’s flirting with, “so what’s an orgasm like?” Natalie ends up in a similar situation when she starts getting cozy with the dude in Washington. She’s supposed to be like the smartest kid in her school…and she can’t figure out she’s lining this guy up for statutory rape charges.
I will say that the two female leads both do a solid job with their performances. Obviously, Jennifer Connelly went on to a very big career and her talent is evident here. More impressive, though, is Maddie Corman as Polly. Though her character clearly has a lot of issues, she brings great energy to her role. Dare I say, the movie may actually have been stronger simply focusing on her story and not muddling itself by jumping back and forth between her and Connelly. I can’t believe I just said that!?!
Despite the solid young actresses, Seven Minutes in Heaven ends up being a misstep in the 80’s teen genre. It’s too gloomy to be fun, and too creepy to sweet.