Thanks to this project, Footloose has made its way back into my heart.
Some movies are better left in the past, and I feared this was one of them. Take the fact that it was made in 1984 and combine it with my small town sensitivity, I expected to re-watch Footloose with a growing disgust and defensiveness that actively combat each other in my head on a daily basis. However, I only felt warmth and kinship, with a healthy dose of kitsch.
As with most great movies (yes, I am calling Footloose “great”), the memorable and at least partially accurate characters create a timelessness within all of the pure 80s silliness. Here is a rundown:
- Willard, played by Chris Penn (RIP), is the good natured hay seed. At times he appears to almost be developmentally challenged. At others, he’s a fucking poet. Case in point: “I mean we’re not stuck in the goddamn middle ages here. I mean we’ve got TV. We’ve got Family Feud.”
- Ren, played by the ageless Kevin Bacon, is the new kid from The City. What’s most refreshing about Ren is that he respects the small town and the people in it. His missteps are borne of ignorance rather than contempt. His outbursts are of frustration rather than condescension. He is a positive force. And, he’s got fantastic hair.
- Ariel, played by Lori Singer, is the small town girl who is dying to get out. There is something sad and tragic about her despite her antics. In short, I can relate to Ariel most of all. I feel it, like a punch in the gut, when her boyfriend says, “you’re as small town as they come”, or when Ren says, “I think you’ve been kissed a lot”. Ariel is a testament not only to the small town, but to the difficulty of being a girl, a young woman, trying to break free.
- The peripheral characters are equally notable with John Lithgow and Dianne Wiest playing stoic and righteous religious pillars who are simultaneously and magically open minded, warm hearted, and community driven. Sarah Jessica Parker also shines in this early role as the most annoying girl in the world with seemingly no purpose other than to further signify the rural nature of the town through her name, Rusty. Further, no small town would be complete without a true bully, in this case Chuck, played by Jim Youngs. He uses the word “pansy” in earnest. He instigates a tractor chicken fight. For a repressed, angry, hick Gen Xer, Chuck might be the most realistic character of the whole bunch.
I’ve heard that Kevin Bacon is making a stellar television comeback with his role in The Following. Without cable, I’ll have to trust what I’ve read about it and check it out from the library once it’s on DVD. In the meantime, I’m happy to watch his 80s Awareness Video and his Footloose entrance on Jimmy Fallon, over and over, on repeat.