The Actors Chewdio was established in 1984 by founding members (and legendary thespians) Francois Van Varenberg, Charles Buchinsky, Michael Gardenzio, Kurt Vogel, and Thomas Mapother. Since its inception, The Actors Chewdio has been a shining beacon of quality within the acting community; producing exemplary performers at a level of talent and professionalism that all others aspire to reach. The organization is lead today by Chairman Hans Lundgren and it is with his gratuitous blessing that we bring you this procession of literary specimens aimed at enlightening lesser folk to the entire cinematic history of the craft’s innumerable transcendent masters…one film at a time!
The Film: Losin’ It (1983)
Director: Curtis Hanson
Writers: Bill L. Norton, Bryan Gindoff
Thespians: Tom Cruise, John Stockwell, Jackie Earle Haley, Shelley Long, John P. Navin Jr., Henry Darrow, Hector Elias, Rick Rossovich, Mario Marcelino, John Valby, Kale Browne, Joe Spinell, etc.
Running Time: 100 minutes
Theatrical Performance: $1,246,141
While technically his third release, this was actually the second film that Cruise shot. Losin’ It was filmed in late 1981, but for whatever reason it sat on the shelf for a year and a half and saw release after The Outsiders. It is basically just your average teen sex comedy, although with the added bonus of being a period piece set during 1965. The plot? Three high school friends have been scrounging up the dough to make a secret trip down to Tijuana for a sordid sexscapade with what they assume will be an assortment of gorgeous prostitutes. Our triumvirate is comprised of studly jock Spider (John Stockwell), sleazeball Dave (Jackie Earle Haley), and shy good-hearted Woody (Tom Cruise). Dave and Woody are dead set on losing their virginity. The former is fairly carefree about what kind of girl he loses it to and the latter is tired of waiting for his now-ex-girlfriend to do the deed. Spider is our resident sexual veteran who simply wants to see something far more out there; specifically a donkey show.
They are accompanied on their adventure by Dave’s little brother Wendell (John P. Navin Jr.) and a woman named Kathy. Wendell, who has a lucrative racket selling papers and test answers to other students, simply wants to buy fireworks on the cheap and hock them back home at around ten times the price he paid for them. Kathy is running out on her cheating husband and sort of invites herself along when the boys make a pit stop at a convenience store. Does this sound like a heap of cliches? Well, that’s because it is. What holds the film together are the performances of our main actors and their primary nemesis in the form of a Tijuana sheriff (Henry Darrow), who is tired of American perverts whoring about his city. All thankfully give their characters a little more weight and motivation than you might generally expect from a throwaway comedy of this sort. Young ’80s staple Rick Rossovich also drops in and out of the film as a hot-headed Marine on shore leave that just can’t catch a break and we are also treated to a fun little cameo from Joe Spinell as a Border Patrol officer.
What’s really fun about this little under-seen film are the weird scenarios tossed at the audience that would come off as ugly in a different film. Woody breaks up with his girlfriend at the start of the film after getting into an argument about them not having sex. Now that’s an extremely dick move, but Cruise plays the character so sympathetically that you can help but root for him to finally “lose it”. When the moment arrives in a seedy Tijuana whorehouse, Woody has second thoughts and chickens out; realizing that he would rather his first time be with someone who actually cares about him. Then we have Long’s Kathy, who runs off to Mexico with a group of horny teenagers to get back at her unfaithful spouse. Sounds rather naughty, doesn’t it? There she ends up filing for a “Tijuana divorce”, gets sloshed, ends up lovingly becoming Woody’s first sexual experience, and then goes running back into her scumbag hubby’s arms at the end of the film like nothing happened. Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that this film’s sexual politics are beyond fucked up, but everyone plays their characters in such a likeable fashion that it is hard to berate them for their behavior.
And what of our other three protagonists? Spider bangs a hooker, dickishly picks a fight with Woody after finding out he didn’t do the same, wanders off through dark alleys in search of his prized donkey show, starts a barfight with Rossovich, ends up in jail, and then rides back to the States virtually unfulfilled. So at least someone in this motley crew was righteously punished for their behavior! Dave also gets his hooker on, but the hijinks and consequences that follow his moronic actions on the streets afterwards are far less dark and violent in nature. Instead, Dave and his brother end up being comically chased by rightfully angry Mexicans all over the city. Poor Wendall doesn’t get to keep the fireworks he blows his money on, instead having to light them off as cover for the entire group’s escape back to the U.S. border. While he seems happy to have at least had such an adventurous night, it’s hard not to fell sorry for the little guy. He got the shit end of the stick and unlike Spider, he didn’t deserve to. Thankfully I can live happy in the knowledge that he will continue pimping out research papers and such to the lazy morons at his school and easily recoup his lost savings. You go, Wendell!
All in all, Losin’ It is an odd duck in this pervy subgenre and not entirely what I expected to get (a generic teen romp), when I sat down to watch it. So why did Tom sign up for this particular outing? Because his agent told him to…
“I didn’t know anything about agents and business or scripts. Coming off Taps, I felt like, hey, everyone wants to make a great movie. Everyone who’s doing this loves their work. It’s too hard a line of work to not love it. You work as hard as you can and you get everything and something has to work out. Then I did a film they titled Losin’ It. When I first read it, it was worse than the released film. I had this small agent at the time who said, “Do it, do it.” I worked hard, but it was a terrible time in my life.”
What Sayeth Humanity?: Losin’ It was slammed and then summarily forgotten upon release…and not much has changed since. No one seems to outright despise it, but the general consensus among those that are actually aware of its existence is that it is a harmless little nothing of a film.
What Sayeth Daniel?: A lesser Cruise effort for sure. While not groundbreaking in any way, Losin’ It is still a fun period teen sex comedy with a great cast and a fun premise. You shouldn’t go out of your way to watch it, but if the opportunity to give it a look ever arises, you could do far worse than enjoyably teen fluff like this. While this is one of the few Cruise films that has not made the jump to high definition yet, you can still snag a copy on DVD. It’s unfortunately only available in fullscreen, but sometimes we have to suffer for our curiosity. Pick it up here, if you are interested.
Next: The Outsiders (1983)
INSIDE THE ACTORS CHEWDIO with Tom Cruise