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Fandango
Directed by Kevin Reynolds
Produced by Tim Zinnemann
Written by Kevin Reynolds
Starring Kevin Costner,
Judd Nelson,
Sam Robards,
Chuck Bush
Music by Alan Silvestri
Editing by Stephen Semel
Arthur Schmidt
Studio Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) January 25, 1985
Running time 91 min.
Language English

Fandango was originally a 30 minute black and white student film titled "Proof" by Kevin Reynolds while he was a student at USC Film. It was a parody of Greek life at his alma mater Baylor University, however due to his father's presidency at the school he did not wish to portray the Baptist institution in an unfavorable light and gave it the alternate distinction as the University of Texas. Steven Spielberg saw it and helped fund a feature length comedy/drama about five college students from Texas in 1971 who go on a 'last' roadtrip together, celebrating the "privilege of youth" as they face graduation, marriage, and the draft for the Vietnam War. It was directed by Reynolds and stars Kevin Costner, Judd Nelson, and Sam Robards. The movie was released by Warner Bros. and Amblin Entertainment on January 25, 1985 and a DVD of the film was released on February 15, 2005.

Contents

Plot

It is 1971 at a fraternity house on the University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas. The film's first image is of Gardner Barnes (Kevin Costner) throwing darts at a picture of him and his ex-girlfriend (Suzy Amis). He rejoins the graduation party going on downstairs, but not before tearing the picture in half. Gardner is a member of a clique called the Groovers, whose other members include Kenneth Waggener (Sam Robards) who's engaged to be married; ROTC geek Phil Hicks (Judd Nelson) whose parents have just come to town and to the fraternity house just in time to see another Groover, Lester (Brian Cesak) pass out (he'll stay out for most of the film); and the strong quiet seminary student Dorman (Chuck Bush). Kenneth interrupts the festivities by announcing his student deferment has expired and he is now to be drafted into the Army. Gardner is not surprised: his own notice came weeks before. The Groovers decide to celebrate their last days before the draft by going on a road trip, intending to stop at a notorious roadhouse and dig up someone - or something - named "Dom" buried under a boulder on the shores of the Rio Grande.

The Groovers drive all night before making a "rest stop". Some, most notably Phil, resist going on, but Gardner presses them on. Kenneth soon reveals he has decided to call off his engagement to Debbie on account of being drafted. Gardner reacts (strangely) with some joy and relief but then, Phil's car runs out of gas, and the Groovers must decide whether to walk to the nearest town or hitch. Phil is adamant about not leaving his car behind, when someone gets an idea: a train is about to pass on a railroad track parallel to the road. Dorman grabs some cable from a fence and makes a lasso. He attaches the other end to the front bumper of the car, as the train passes, Dorman lassos the back of the train. The Groovers are in the car, waiting, when Kenneth asks, "How are we going to stop?" But this is answered when the bumper - and the grill, and the hood, and indeed the entire front end of the body of the car - is pulled off, leaving the car in place. The Groovers just manage to push the car to the nearest town, leave it at a garage where it won't be ready until the next morning, and have a bite at the Sonic. They meet up with some local "jail bait" (one of whom is played by Elizabeth Daily) and come upon the tombstone of a fallen Vietnam War veteran. Kenneth says, "I can't go (to Vietnam)." Gardner replies, "Then don't". Later that night the four Groovers end up sleeping at the former movie set of Giant.

The car is repaired the next morning (though the front end does not match the car at all) and the Groovers continue on their way. Phil is complaining about wanting to go back - and thinking Gardner is attempting to flee to Mexico to avoid the draft - when Kenneth shouts angrily at him. At this point, Gardner confesses they only let Phil hang with them because they felt sorry for him. Humiliated, Phil retorts that he will take on any challenge at any time. At this point, the group sees a sign for a parachute school that gives jumping lessons. Phil reluctantly agrees to try it. Gardner cons the rather hippy-ish instructor, one Truman Sparks (Marvin J. McIntyre) into giving them a free lesson. Phil is feeling terrified but goes up into Truman's plane anyway. Then the boys realize that Phil got a pack lacking a parachute because it is full of Truman's dirty laundry. They try desperately to warn him (there's no ground-to-plane communication) but fail. Fortunately, Truman and Phil are connected by walkie-talkie, and when the main chute fails, Phil, scared stiff, is able to open the emergency chute on his stomach with much prompting from Truman. The Groovers get a picture for their efforts, letting Phil get some of his wounded pride back.

After discovering the charred, abandoned remains of the roadhouse, the Groovers press onward towards Dom. They make it to the Rio Grande at last and dig up Dom - which turns out to be a magnum of Dom Perignon champagne. Each Groover takes a drink before Gardner drinks a toast to "freedom and youth". The Groovers are all feeling great about this, even Phil. But Kenneth is disheartened; he has had second thoughts about calling off the engagement. Pondering a bit on the nature of love, Gardner decides to make things right. He calls Debbie, gets her to accept the engagement again, and arranges for transport for her from Dallas to the border town; Truman Sparks agrees to fly there and back.

Through a bit of trickery, he sets up a beautiful wedding for Kenneth and Debbie. Debbie and Gardner share one last dance before she goes, incidentally she is the girl in the picture that Gardner is throwing darts at the beginning of the movie. That evening, after the ceremony, Phil lets Kenneth and Debbie have his car as a wedding present. Lester goes to hitch a ride "anywhere" and Phil and Dorman shake hands before leaving. Across the Rio Grande, Gardner lifts a beer in salute to his friends, safe from the draft in Mexico.

Production

The skydiving sequence in Fandango is shot-for-shot taken from Kevin Reynold's USC thesis film, "Proof" from 1980. The screenplay for "Proof" was seen by Steven Spielberg, who offered to produce the project which became Fandango through his company, Amblin Entertainment.[1]

Reception

In her review for the New York Times, Janet Maslin prasied Kevin Reynolds' "way with the sight gags and off-the-wall humor that make this a notable debut. And he brings a good deal of feeling to the moments in which the film's twin specters - Vietnam and maturity - intrude upon the frantic festivities".[2] The Globe and Mail also praised the direction: "Reynolds shows an uncanny confidence with the camera, a sureness which is backed up by a powerful visual sensitivity and an ear for language, especially the vernacular of Texas, where the film is set".[3]

References

  1. ^ Maslin, Janet (January 25, 1985). "At the Movies". New York Times.  
  2. ^ Maslin, Janet (January 25, 1985). "Coming of Age in 1971". New York Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?_r=1&res=9400E4D7153BF936A15752C0A963948260&partner=Rotten%20Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-04-10.  
  3. ^ Fraser, Matthew (March 12, 1985). "Not just another teen comedy". Globe and Mail.  

External links

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