by Anthony King
I'll venture a guess and say that Summer Lovers will be the sexiest movie I'll see all year. Possibly all decade. From the stunningly gorgeous setting of Santorini to the stunningly gorgeous cast of Peter Gallagher, Darryl Hannah, and Valérie Quennessen, we're immersed in pure sex and all you want to do is strip naked and lay by the ocean. If that was writer/director Randal Kleiser's goal, then he succeeded. If not, then it was a fascinating and welcoming side effect of this tale of young love.
When I think of the comforting warmth of romantic comedies featuring younger actors of the 1980s, I always think about Valley Girl, Risky Business, St. Elmo's Fire, Little Darlings, or the slew of John Hughes high school movies. Somehow these all seem to fit nicely into their own little genre box. Summer Lovers, while featuring twenty-somethings on a dream summer vacation in the Greek Isles, stands alone. For one it seems to be dealing in more adult themes than even the elder Brat Pack who are just out of college and hanging out at St. Elmo's Bar. When it comes down to it, Summer Lovers is about two young Americans who travel over seas and explore their sexuality, however reluctantly. And that's it. The initial log line on ImdB says, “A young American couple and a French woman engage in a threesome in the Greek Islands.” Yes, true. Yet there's so much more.
Let me stop here and say that Summer Lovers, while not your typical American movie of the '80s, is still impossibly '80s. The soundtrack, for one, is absolute killing. The film opens with its own self-titled theme song co-written and performed by Michael Sembello (“Maniac” from Flashdance). The soundtrack also features songs by Elton John, Depeche Mode, Tina Turner, Prince, Mink Deville and Heaven 17. There's a lip-sync/music video-esque sequence of our three leads singing Lime's “Your Love.” Not to get too far ahead of myself, but the movie closes with a medley of the Peter Cetera version of Chicago (ultimate '80s for me) doing “Hard to Say I'm Sorry” and “Get Away”. If that's not '80s enough, Michael and Cathy sleep on a water bed.
Valérie Quennessen would tragically die in a car accident in 1989 at the age of 31. I'm heartbroken to think of a life with so much promise and talent cut so short. Along with Quennessen, Summer Lovers features tremendous early performances from Gallagher (his second feature) and Hannah (her third). While dripping with schmaltz, it's far too under- appreciated and underseen. And for me, this is the perfect kickoff for the summer season.