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  Fandango The Groovers
Year: 1985
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Stars: Kevin Costner, Judd Nelson, Sam Robards, Chuck Bush, Brian Cesak, Marvin J. McIntyre, Suzy Amis, Glenne Headly, Pepe Serna, E.G. Daily, Robyn Rose, Stanley Grover, Jane A. Johnston
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Gardner (Kevin Costner) is reclining in his dorm room, throwing darts at a picture of himself and his ex-girlfriend (Suzy Amis), but none of the darts hit the image of her face. Getting up, he tears her half from the wall and crumples it up, then goes to join the beginnings of a party in the recreation room, but when the guest of honour is meant to show up to a line of mooning students it's actually two parents who walk through the door, here to see their son Phil (Judd Nelson). And when Kenneth (Sam Robards) does walk in, he's not in a party mood...

The reason for that being he has just broken off his engagement with his fiancée because he's has received his draft card - did I mention this story was set in 1971, when the war in Vietnam was still dragging on? Gardner knows how he feels, but he isn't going to let it get him down, for he has been called up as well, and so begins a modest but effective road movie, based by director Kevin Reynolds on his student film which operated as his calling card for Hollywood. Steven Spielberg was impressed enough to invite him to place the premise of that short in a feature, and all the signs were promising.

Yet when the movie was complete, Spielberg decided he wasn't keen on it, and when it was finally released, it didn't get much of a publicity push and therefore found itself consigned to obscurity as far as eighties movies went. That was not the end of the story, as eventually it began to haunt the memories of those who had caught it in television or taken a chance on this Kevin Costner flick they'd never heard of but was on the shelves of the video store nevertheless, and lo! A cult was born. There are quite a few fans now who count this as their personal discovery, and in truth it's best suited to the under the radar landscape of films that never made the big, or even medium, time.

Fandango's main strength was that spirit of "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!", which could have descended into wallowing in simple melancholia or even treacly schmaltz, after all the main characters had enough reason to bemoan their lot as college is ending with two of the five guys on the road trip heading off to Vietnam and, it is implied, probable death. Yet as ominous as the future seems, it renders it all the more imperative they seize the day as even if they do survive, the camaraderie they have with each other will not, and they know there is a death of friendship occuring that leaves Gardner all the more intent on going out with a final gesture to the world that he knew how to have fun, no matter that nothing much worked out for the best.

The centrepiece of the plot was what had made up that student film, where Phil is so incensed that his companions think he's a wet blanket that he half-agrees to go on a parachute jump to prove he's no square. This school that runs these opportunities is a one man operation (Marvin J. McIntyre was that man, a peerless performance of hippiedom), and is an altogether ramshackle affair, allowing us to ponder whether it's worth illustrating your capacity for a good time when you might be risking your life. It's the highlight of the movie, and if the rest of it grows too reflective rather than striking the right balance, it was both hilarious in its way and affecting in others. As the adventure unfolds, with one student sleeping through the whole thing, another (Chuck Bush) a monument to serenity under pressure (great Moses impression, too), and Gardner, Phil and Kenneth working out some kind of compromise that sees happiness of sorts, Fandango was a small movie that stayed in the mind like something higher profile. Music by Alan Silvestri.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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