Throwback Review: An Officer and a Gentleman

An Officer and a Gentleman poster

An Officer and a Gentleman poster

Tenth in a series of “throwback” posts. I wrote this during the winter of 1987, which means I’d probably seen the movie a few times already.  I regard this as the worst review I’ve ever written (see afterward).

This is one of those “heart racing, tears rolling down your cheeks stand up and cheer” kind of movies. It’s primarily emotional punch after emotional punch.

The lead is Richard Gere, a loner with a bum for a father, and he’s got “nowhere else to go” but the Air Force. There’s the tramp who tricks the upright and decent farm kid, there’s the tough sergeant, there’s tragedy, there’s self discovery, there’s romance, there’s triumph.

See this picture because it’s bigger than life and it’s got everything. You leave it feeling happy. Good for watching with anyone, anytime, although there is some embarrassing sex in the middle which is totally unnecessary. Otherwise, a whole lot of fun. Louis Gossett, Jr. hasn’t had a good role since.

Winter 1987



This is the worst movie review I’ve ever written. It’s factually wrong (Gere’s character was an officer candidate in the Navy, not the Air Force), and it has some terrible misconceptions about the quality/nature of sex and romance. The ending can’t possibly be regarded as triumphant or happy, knowing what I do now about human nature. The movie couple probably divorced after a couple of miserable years, two pregnancies and plenty of domestic violence.

With that said, I think I’ve seen An Officer and a Gentleman ten times (I’ve seen Die Hard and Star Wars that much, too – the heart wants what it wants.) It’s a misogynistic fantasy. The movie’s version of a “good woman” is someone who will screw with no strings attached, then be grateful when and if her man freely chooses her. I wrote about the “tramp who tricks the upright and decent farm kid;” today, I give the tramp a lot more credit than the farm kid, who is weak shit indeed. (The movie attributes his impulsive suicide to her coldhearted rejection – now, I’d say she dodged a bullet because his latent mental illness was just waiting to reveal itself.)

Richard Gere took the lead role after it had been turned down by John Travolta, Jeff Bridges, Kurt Russell, Dennis Quaid and Ken Wahl. (Gere says he “did it strictly for the money,” as opposed to the rest of his socially relevant, non-payday-motivated filmography.) Debra Winger negotiated her own contract and neglected to specify no nudity, so was forced to display her breasts against her protests (which I might have sensed, calling the scene “embarrassing.”) Winger and Gere hated each other – Pauline Kael famously wrote that Winger’s lips were “puffy with desire;” Winger says it’s because she couldn’t stop crying. (Don Simpson didn’t like Winger for the part. Charles Fleming’s biography of Simpson quotes the producer as saying, “You’re not fuckable enough.” There isn’t a deep enough level of hell for Don Simpson.)

Louis Gossett Jr. was cast as the drill sergeant after the producers rejected Mandy Patinkin, and Jack Nicholson and James Woods said no. He won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, the first African-American to win that category and the first African-American in any category since Sidney Poitier won Best Actor in 1963. Things haven’t improved much since 1982.

April 30, 2015