An Officer And A Gentleman (1982)

an officer and a gentleman

“You know something, you ain’t nothing special. You got no manners, you treat woman like wh–es and if you ask me you got no chance of being no officer.”

The Scoop: 1982 15, directed by Taylor Hackford and starring Debra Winger, Richard Gere and David Keith

Tagline: It will lift you up where you belong.

Summary Capsule: A navy officer candidate  must overcome his background, pass boot camp and win a girl. It makes you feel bad inside.

Louise’s rating: 1 out of 5 officer candidates going DOR (I have no idea what that means)

Louise’s review: I came to An Officer and a Gentleman knowing the song and the famous final scene, in which Richard Gere in naval whites strolls into the paper factory, wherein works his estranged girlfriend (Debra Winger in a fetching old man hat). He picks her up and strides away with her into the future. Cue the soaring violins, “where eagles fly on a mountain high”, the girls in the audience blub into their ice cream and wish it was them. This clip frequently turns up on those Most Romantic Moments lists that fill the internet. I believe it’s been parodied a few times as well.

What they don’t tell you is that this romantic scene is the culmination of a relationship characterized (I think) by verbal and mental abuse, suspicion of entrapment, and occasional trills of “Up Where We Belong.” Romantic, I don’t think so! Richard Gere, you’ve done it again.

Gere, with an acting career against all the odds, plays troubled Zach Mayo. His mother committed suicide when he was about fourteen, forcing him to move in with his seaman father. This loser left him alone in various world ports for three weeks out of every four. Now all grown up, Zach is a well-chiselled but selfish hustler, going nowhere and reluctant to commit to a steady girl.

Mayo joins the navy and enrolls in officer school. The base is only a ferry ride away from a town full of working class local girls looking to better themselves by nabbing officer husbands. Such a girl is *not* Paula, played by Debra Winger. Paula is *not* looking to snare an officer by getting pregnant, but just to meet interesting people at the base dances. Completely innocent, is our Paula.

However, she’s clearly an exception to the rule, a rose in a nest of vipers. We know this because her best friend, her mum and her colleagues talk about *nothing* but the problems of attracting and holding onto those yuppie college boys in their bright uniforms, all with exciting careers ahead of them.

Misogyny, thy name is An Officer and a Gentleman.

:::SPOILER::: In a subplot, one of these manipulative girls’ machinations causes such trauma for one of Zack’s colleagues that he tops himself. That’s how we know how evil they are. :::SPOILER:::

[Editor’s Note: For non-Brits, “tops himself” is apparently slang for “commits suicide.” Thanks, Google!]

Zack and Paula fall for each other at a dance, but can their romance survive his unmannerly mental hang-ups? This is what I think of as the Dirty Dancing half of the plot, which is crudely stapled to the Top Gun half of the plot. The two halves are literally interspersed – we get a scene from one plot strand, then one from the other, then back again. You feel like you’re channel hopping for two and a half hours, channel hopping but unable to escape the Gere. Maybe you’ll never escape! Maybe the shooting script was really written by dropping the scripts of those other two (better) films, then gathering up the pages any old how and hoping for the best.

As well as realize he needs a sweet woman to be happy, our maverick hero has to have Essence of Pure Officer beaten into him by a vicious sergeant. Many boot camp montages. Many, many, many, many boot camp montages. Maybe this is why the film is sooooo looooong. And if you’re missing the misogyny, don’t worry, because it’s here in this half of the film as well. The lady trainee officer can’t do push ups, she can’t climb a wall, she can’t do much except be humiliated by the sergeant.

I feel bad describing Paula as a sweet woman like it’s a bad thing. Debra Winger actually does bring some genuine sweetness (not sickly, just sweet) and cuteness to her role. Paula comes across as a bit naive, perhaps, and foolish in love, but funny and appealing. And as for the boot camp, um, I can’t do push ups or climb a wall either, and I am female. But I haven’t joined the navy! So there!

An Officer and a Gentleman: long and boring. Watch a sergeant brutalize a toerag who brutalizes in turn a lovely woman, learn what makes a friend (but only with other navy people – no-one else can be trusted), then win a glorious future learning to fly jets  (hope he’s shot down), all to synth instrumental versions of “Up Where We Belong”.

Or, you know, clean out your sinks instead. It’s about as much fun.

“Are you paying attention, boy?” “Yes, sir, soon I’ll be just as big an S. O. B. as you.”
  • Groovy songs on the soundtrack include Dire Straits’ Tunnel of Love and Pat Benatar’s Treat Me Right. That last one is pretty ironic.

Groovy Quotes

Sergeant Foley: In every class, there’s always one joker who thinks that he’s smarter than me. In this class, that happens to be you. Isn’t it, Mayonnaise?

Topper: Who the hell is that guy?
Perryman: That’s your momma and daddy for the next thirteen weeks.

Lynette: You’re no different than I am, Paula!

Foley: Wave good-bye to your buddies, Mayonnaise! Oh, I forgot. You don’t have any buddies, do you? Only customers!

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  1. I have forever burned in my mind Robert Loggia in his underwear. That and the ending are all I remember of this movie.

  2. Wow, I’m surprised to read this review! I haven’t seen An Officer And A Gentleman, and wasn’t really planning to, but in my mind it was … well, like Top Gun but with different uniforms and more kissing? I haven’t seen all of Top Gun either, actually. What I’m trying to say is thank you for warning me off this film – if one of my friends tries to convince me to watch it, I shall politely decline.

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