A terrific lesser-known film that deserves a better rating than the one given it here at IMDb.Based on a short story by Joyce Carol Oates called "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?", "Smooth Talk" stars Laura Dern as a bored and restless adolescent who thinks she's more in control of her sexual allure, and more capable of handling the attention she receives for it, than she is. In a deeply unsettling and slightly surreal scene, a hunky stranger (Treat Williams) comes calling for her, and she realizes that she's not as mature as she thinks. The film captures the same other-worldly quality of the short story (the scene with Treat Williams plays out almost like a feverish dream), while ably adapting it to the very different needs of a feature length film.Dern gives a wonderful performance, one of the many given by this underrated actress. And another lovely performance comes from Mary Kay Place, who plays Dern's mother. One of the most memorable scenes for me came when mother and daughter are in separate rooms of the house, but unbeknownst to each other are both privately dancing to the same song playing on the radio. I can never hear James Taylor's "Handyman" without thinking of this movie.Grade: A
The character of Arnold Friend was actually based loosely on Charles Howard Schmid, Jr., or "Smitty" aka "The Pied Piper of Tucson" who killed teenage girls in the 1960's. "The Pied Piper mimicked teenagers in talk, dress, and behavior, but he was not a teenager-he was a man in his early thirties. Rather short, he stuffed rags in his leather boots to give himself height." (from an article by Joyce Carole Oates) The rags made him unsteady on his feet.
"Smooth Talk" spends the first half of its run time developing the Dern character, showing her to be a typically (more or less) rebellious, angst-filled, brittle teen who is just discovering boys and dating when an unexpected encounter with a smooth talker (Williams) forces her to take a quantum leap toward maturity. A simple little serious-minded indie with a thin story and not so thin message, "SM" is a slow starter with a solid performance by Dern which will likely be most appreciated by females. B-
The movie is for the most part was good. I recommend reading the short story which it is based on before you see the movie. The movie sticks to the plot for the most part, but there are a few differences that shouldn't have been added in. The roles of the parents were good and accurately got across the ideas that Connie disliked in them. Laura Dern as Connie did an average job of portraying Connie, the shallow 15 year old. Treat Williams was excellent as the disturbing Arnold Friend. The biggest problem with this film is they gave it a Hollywood "happily ever after" which is completely different from the dark ending of the story. "Where you are going, where have you been" is a very good story and is much darker than "Smooth Talk" but if you are a fan of the story, check this out to compare.