SMOOTH TALK (1985)

Directed by: Joyce Chopra 

Written By: Tom Cole

Based on the short story “Where are you going, Where have you been” By: Joyce Carol Oates 

Cinematography: James Glennon 

Editor: Patrick Dodd 

Cast: Laura Dern, Treat Williams, Mary Kay Place, Levon Helm, Elizabeth Berridge, Margaret Welsh, William Ragsdale 

A free-spirited 15-year-old girl flirts with a dangerous stranger in the Northern California suburbs and must prepare herself for the frightening and traumatic consequences.


Most of the movie is built up around the third act or really a scene. The lead up to it that helps bail itself out. Though it seems the filmmakers used the scene to help fill in the blanks as far as characters.

I remember seeing the poster for this movie in video stores in my youth. Never knew what it was about and also got it confused with a few films Laura Dern was in including SMOOTH OPERATOR and BLUE VELVET. As at the time it seemed like she was always playing the same types of roles. Only wish I knew about this film early before. As it probably would have enjoyed it more and been a nostalgic classic for me. 

As the film seems more to lead up to the finale. That doesn’t exactly match the rest of the film. As before it the film More wanders and stays with the main character. Where it seems like a modern-day teen’s life more coming of age in the times of mall culture. 

That is what the final scene is based on the short story by Joyce Carol Oates and the rest of the film built around it. Using little details to fill in the character and actions that lead to the final situation. 

As this offers a smaller Realistic look at female teen sexuality and how it affects others and a coming of age story that doesn’t have a sunny and rosy outlook.

He wants her to give herself to him but Is not above taking it by Force. As he is all Machismo and Tries to be charming and poetic but is full-on sleazy, Creepy predator trying to intimidate her. 

Has it’s 1980’s music cue moments of accompaniment that feels more of the time but laughable now and almost takes you out of the dynamics. 

A teen film whose appeal seems more aimed at adults. While the main character deals with shifting friendships as one friend who is more innocent fades into the background who doesn’t Want to join in on her adventures and her other friend who does and she gets closer. As another friend is also more aggressive and wild.

Her different difficulties with family and friends, her hostile mother, and her constant war. A father who is barely there and an older sister who has moved back home. 

The third act becomes very theatrical like a stage show almost. A dance that each character do around each other. Wanting different things but in a rhythm with one another. He seems like the big bad wolf. Hinted at earlier in the movie but then he makes his way to her and then the film

Becomes tension-filled. As he seems determined to take her innocence that she has been flirting with losing lately.

The film doesn’t offer any answers and leaves the ending to be ambiguous. Where we wonder so many things like. Where did he come from? Was any of this real? If so did she bring this on to herself because of her behavior? Did she attract this trouble? Was it a worst-case scenario? Is this a kind of punishment or as she says she doesn’t Know. Was this a warning as to what could happen?

As the film tries to depict a teen’s life on the brink of adulthood. Who makes decisions that affect her and her life growing up too fast. This was why in the end she resorts to old routines and memories wanting to bathe into them and be around family as their problems seem to disappear. We are not sure what happened but it is suggested 

Grade: B

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