Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, A [1988]

The late, much-missed River Phoenix had his first starring role in A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, one of the more unusual teen comedies of the 1980s. Jimmy (Phoenix) is a lower-class kid whose parents have gotten him into a wealthy school, where he hangs out with kids who can't comprehend not having money. Jimmy puts the moves on almost every girl he meets, including Denise (Ione Skye from Say Anything and Gas Food Lodging), the girlfriend of his best friend Fred (a very young Matthew Perry, who has gone on to huge success on the TV show Friends), even though his own girlfriend, Lisa (Meredith Salenger), is about to move to Hawaii. On the evening of graduation, Jimmy ruins just about every relationship he has and wrecks his dad's car along the way. A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon is based on a novel that screenwriter-director William Richert wrote when he was 19, and you can tell--the movie is full of self-aggrandizing gestures, bad poetry, and wounded looks. But despite that--or because of it--the movie also has something of the genuine chaos of late adolescence, when you start to realize that the dreams you have might not be what you want, and that your worst fears might not be the worst that could happen. Phoenix is a truly charismatic presence, though his fresh face is a bit at odds with his scamming character. The movie isn't a cinematic Catcher in the Rye, but it's exploring the same troubled territory. --Bret Fetzer

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