1984 is the year that saw the beginning of the John Hughes era of teen oriented films, and with it the birth of the so-called “Brat Pack.” Hughes made big stars out of the likes of Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Andrew McCarthy, Ally Sheedy, and others. A somewhat fringe member of the Brat Pack was Jon Cryer who, even with his current sitcom success, will always be associated with the role of Duckie in the 1986 film Pretty in Pink. But in 84, at the dawn of the teen film craze, Cryer appeared in this little-seen film co-starring another up-and-coming young star, Demi Moore…No Small Affair.
Cryer plays Charles Cummings, a somewhat awkward sixteen-year-old San Francisco teenager who spends most of his time pursuing his interest in photography. He prefers to take pictures of inanimate objects, since people are just too much trouble. Case in point, his mother (Ann Wedgeworth), her boyfriend (Jeffrey Tambor) and his brother Leonard (Peter Frechette). One day Cumming is shooting pictures when a beautiful woman (Moore) wanders in front of his camera while in the middle of an argument with her boyfriend. Once he gets the pictures developed, Cummings becomes obsessed with the girl and determines to find her.
He shows the pictures to people all over town, but nobody seems to know who she is. As luck would have it, Leonard takes his underaged brother to a bar one night and the mystery girl, named Laura Victor, happens to be the lead singer in the band. When Cummings tries to snap some more photos of her, he gets tossed out by the owner (George Wendt). That doesn’t stop him, though. He returns to present the pictures he took to Laura and eventually convinces her to pose for more.
The two end up becoming good friends as they hop around San Francisco snapping photos. One day, when the two are hungry but have no money, they show that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson didn’t invent wedding crashing. The get discovered, though, and Laura has to sing for their supper. Then, in an effort to get Laura more singing gigs, Cummings uses his life’s savings to plaster her picture and phone number on hundreds of city cabs. She ends up getting tons of calls thinking she’s a call girl. Can their friendship survive this disaster and does Cummings have any sort of shot with this sexy older songstress?
I’ve often said that I think Cryer was one of the more appealing of the teen stars of the 80’s. He seemed more like a regular teen than many of the others. That certainly comes across in this film. Cryer does an impressive job handling the shifts that his character goes through. He’s a confident smart aleck when dealing with his mom, but becomes more fumbling and awkward as he tries to get to know Laura, only to transform into a charmer as their friendship blossoms. It’s all quite convincing and you can’t help but root for the guy. I’ve got to give Demi Moore a lot of credit, as well. In the 80’s she always seemed to play the impossibly beautiful and utterly unobtainable (unless you’re Rob Lowe) characters. Here she’s as gorgeous as ever but comes across as a much more genuine character. The whole cast is pretty solid, including Tim Robbins and Jennifer Tilly, before they became famous, as a few of Cummings schoolmates. E.G. (Elizabeth) Daily also shows up as Leonard’s fiancée.
Though the performances are enjoyable, the film does have a few weak spots storywise. One particularly awkward sequence involves older brother Leonard trying to set up Cummings with his bachelor party prostitute. The scene seems like a lame attempt to give the film a bit of that raunchy sex comedy feel. The big incident that causes the rift between Cummings and Laura, the pictures on the taxi cabs, is also a bit of a stretch. I had a hard time believing that even a seven-year-old would think it was a good idea, forget a fairly intelligent seeming teenager. The situation also resolves itself a bit too neatly. Still, the performances manage to carry us through the weaker aspects of the story.
No Small Affair definitely has a different feel than the more iconic 80’s teen comedies. To be honest, I don’t know that I’d call this film a comedy. It has some funny moments, but it’s more of a coming of age story. This isn’t Ferris Bueller territory, but Jon Cryer and Demi Moore make this over-looked teen flick worth checking out.