Smooth Talk (1985) [Feature]

UK,USA (MIFF 2021 )
Director: Joyce Chopra

Laura Dern is unforgettable in this 1986 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner – sumptuously restored in digital format – as a teen who pursues experiences she’s not really sure she wants.

It’s a long, hot summer in Northern California, and 15-year-old Connie (Dern) is restless and bored. She fills her days wandering the mall with friends, flirting with boys her own age, and dallying with the pleasures and perils of their sexual attention. When a shady older man called Arnold Friend (Treat Williams) enters her life, he tells her everything she wants to hear, but the line between seducer and predator is a fine one.

Director Joyce Chopra turned the teen film inside out with this shrewd adaptation of a short story by Joyce Carol Oates. Dern’s Connie is wonderfully contradictory, shifting easily between the confidence and clumsiness of young womanhood, while Mary Kay Place is heartbreaking as a mother with a tenuous grip on her daughter. Scenes are bathed in the pastel haze of a dream, yet the possibility of danger – as realised by Williams’ exceptionally creepy turn – always lurks on the fringes. A vital exploration of sexual power dynamics, Smooth Talk is as potent and timely now as it ever was.

“The shiveringly memorable Smooth Talk may be the first film to get adolescence in America right, down to the last, delicate seismographic tremor.” – Los Angeles Times

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