“Maxwell Hauser” and a decent remake of Crying. That’s about all I remember about Hiding Out, the 1987 romantic dramedy Jon Cryer made the year after his cinematic breakthrough, Pretty In Pink. Wait, I forgot about his hair. Blonde on the sides, black in the middle. So, three things, then. Nope. The love story. Make that four.
Cryer has that particular hairstyle because he’s in a serious crisis. Once a bearded, bespectacled, chain smoking Wall Street broker, he’s now on the lam from a mobster who wants him dead. Why? The guy’s on trial for money laundering through phony bonds that were handled by Cryer and two of his colleagues. At least, that’s what I think happened. Although it’s sort of explained in two different scenes during the beginning & middle of the film, this still isn’t really clear to me.
In fact, I have a few questions: did Cryer and his cronies know the bonds were phony? Did they know they were dealing with a criminal? Why they were selected? When did they realize they were all in deep shit? How did the feds find out?
Anyway, the mob guy is so pissed at the brokers he hires hitmen to eliminate all three. They only get one (the dumb guy who conveniently leaves his gun on his still playing stereo while he sleeps in the adjacent bedroom in his apartment). Immediately afterwards, Cryer and his other co-worker are separated & protected by the FBI until it’s their turns to testify against him. (The co-worker eventually clams up on the stand leaving Cryer the government’s only hope for conviction.)
I have to say something here. Cryer’s beard looks incredibly fake in these early scenes and distractingly so. It’s no wonder that diner waitress asks for his ID at one point.
He’s supposed to be playing a man in his early 30s but because he has such a young face (he was in his early 20s when he shot the film), it’s not believable at all. After barely escaping from a failed attempt on his life by one of the mobster’s hitmen (would he really try to eliminate him in such public surroundings in broad daylight?), he’s desperate to reconnect with his young, teenage cousin (played by another babyface, Keith Coogan, who actually was a teenager at the time).
Before he does that, he shaves off his fake beard, loses his glasses (he never squints and I don’t think he ever wears contacts) and puts “Naturally Blond” hair dye on both sides of his head. Curiously, he’s far more convincing looking as a fake teen than he ever is as a grown man.
After enrolling in Coogan’s school, they end up in the same sex education class. This leads to an unfortunate & unfunny homophobic sequence where Coogan thinks Cryer is hitting on him instead of just getting his attention. Thankfully, once they’re in the boys bathroom, Coogan clues in & finally makes a friend.
Now the point of Cryer being in this school with the new look and fake name (the aforementioned Maxwell Hauser, a not-so-witty tribute to the famous brand of coffee he spots in the school office on his first day) is to keep a low profile. But when his history teacher rips into an anonymous student’s Nixon essay (the teacher is clearly a Republican in denial), he can’t help himself. Are there many progressives on Wall Street?
The appreciative student who wrote it is Annabeth Gish (her dad served in Vietnam) who he inevitably falls in love with even though she’s 17 and he’s thirtysomething. (I was 29 when I lost my virginity to a 19-year-old so who am I to judge?) The relationship often feels very forced. Cryer makes her laugh way too easily with subpar material. As they roller skate during their first date, Roy Orbison and kd lang bring his classic Crying back to life. It’s kind of an odd choice considering how well the date is going. Anyway, it’s a shame they don’t play the whole song. (The original is superior, though.)
Meanwhile, Gish is kind of still seeing Tim Quill, the history teacher’s favourite student, even though they don’t really go on dates or anything. He doesn’t think that’s cool or something. Whatever.
Anyway, standing up to the history teacher gets him over with the student body which means cousin Coogan is now cool by association. Meanwhile, he’s having a difficult time trying to get his license. Let’s just say Coogan’s an excellent candidate for America’s Worst Driver.
Quill is running for a third term as class president which annoys a group of rapping, black students who nominate Cryer to be his opponent. (The history teacher, for some inexplicable reason, is backing Quill. What does she get out of his reelection anyway?) He’s not down at all but they don’t care. He’s running whether he likes it or not. Considering my own troubled history with high school politics, I do not envy his dilemma one bit.
Time has not been kind to Hiding Out. Almost 30 years after its initial theatrical release, it feels very stale today. (Watching it again in full screen on a dubbed VHS tape solidifies that feeling.) The mob plot is a confusing mess (you know how I feel about the romance) and the comedy, for the most part, is very tired. I laughed exactly 3 times. Hearing the student body mercilessly boo the conniving history teacher during the election results is the biggest one. Talk about heel heat.
Even though I’d forgotten most of the story, the film is rather predictable. You never really feel Cryer is in any serious danger and the chances of an unhappy ending are next to nil.
That said, it’s modestly interesting how Gish isn’t too upset learning the truth about Cryer and how Quill has a surprising amount of integrity for someone who has strange ideas about romance. (His character is a bit baffling.) How exactly can he be a “pretty decent guy” if he’s so emotionally distant?
If there’s any tiny consolation in suffering through yet another bad 80s film, it’s briefly seeing a pre-stardom Joy Behar as a sassy waitress. However, like the rest of the cast, what a shame she’s not given anything memorably funny to say.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, January 18, 2015