Warner Brothers Archives, the big studio’s movie on demand service, has rereleased Vision Quest after years of being out of print and only available in pan and scan format.The successful 1985 film, which briefly made Matthew Modine a recognizable face and Linda Fiorentino the stuff of teenage boys dreams, has gained a cult status in the years since its release, partly because of its popular soundtrack, but more importantly because of its effective depiction of being a teenager. Vision Quest is often overlooked when critics assemble their list of the best coming of age films. However, I believe it ranks right near the top with that sometimes forgotten Tom Cruise football flick, All the Right Moves, as one of the 80’s finest portrayals of small town, blue collar life.
Modine plays Louden Swain, a senior high school wrestler from Spokane, Washington, who drops two weight classes in order to take on the State‘s toughest wrestler. Louden’s reason for this huge undertaking is simply to prove to himself that he’s capable of greatness, even if it means bloody noses, fainting spells, thousands of sit-ups and push-ups, plus the scorn of his teammates. Louden’s dad is a down on his luck mechanic played by veteran character actor, Ronny Cox. Mr. Swain is divorced and still hasn’t gotten over his ex-wife leaving the family. When Mr. Swain defends a customer against the shady business dealings of his boss, he gets fired. That customer is a tough, independent twenty-year-old on her way to San Francisco named Carla (Fiorentino). With her car in the shop, she has no where to go. A smitten Louden convinces his pop to take her in as a boarder until she can leave town.
As you can imagine, the hormonal eighteen-year-old, Louden, can’t get the hottie living under his roof off of his mind. In one of the film’s funniest scenes, he comes upon Carla’s clean laundry and pulls out a pair of her underwear. Just as he’s sniffing it, she enters the room and grabs it from his hand. While half the film is dedicated to Louden’s training, the other half is devoted to the slow romance that develops between Louden and Carla. Eventually the two plots intersect as Louden’s love for her begins to become a distraction from his original goal. At some point, one or both of them must come to a decision as to whether Louden will continue on his path to greatness of taking on Shute (Frank Jasper), the bad ass three time wrestling champ.
In the tradition of the best coming of age stories, not everything works out in the end of Vision Quest. However, the conclusion is still fulfilling, the mark of any good movie. Modine is outstanding as Louden. He perfectly captures the complexity of being a teenager, in all its awkwardness, selfishness and angst. He’s also quite funny. He’s fortunate to have cast mates in Firoentino and Cox, as they compliment Modine superbly. Other great performances include those by Charles Hallahan, as Louden’s coach, Michael Schoeffling (“Jake” from Sixteen Candles) as Kuch, Louden’s friend, and Daphne Zuniga in a comic relief role (remember when she used to do comedy?)
This new release is the first time Vision Quest has been presented in the widescreen format. This surprises me, as famed cinematographer, Owen Roizman (Network, Tootsie, The Addams Family) was working behind the camera. What’s even more surprising about the film’s disappearance from the home video market is that the other folks behind the scenes were director Harold Becker (Taps, Sea of Love, Malice) and producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber (American Werewolf in London, Flashdance, Batman). As I mentioned, Vision Quest also has one of the best soundtracks from the era. Overseen by John Kalodner, music from the movie is a selection of some of the early 80’s best mainstream rock, such as John Waite’s “Change,” Red Rider’s “Lunatic Fringe” and Journey’s classic, “Only the Young.” Also notable is the inclusion of Madonna’s smash hit, “Crazy for You” (recorded specifically for the film.” Madge actually appears in Vision Quest, singing in a local dive bar (and looking completely out of place).
The Vision Quest DVD doesn’t come with any bells or whistles, customary with MOD services like Warner Archives. Still, in the case of a film like this one, fans of it are just going to be happy that they won’t have to pay an arm and a leg to own it.
Vision Quest on DVD is available through Warner Archives.