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Fandango
1985 - PG - 91 Mins.
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Producer: Tim Zinneman
Written By: Kevin Reynolds
Starring: Kevin Costner, Judd Nelson, Sam Robards, Chuck Bush, Suzy Amis, Glenne Headly
Review by: Harrison Cheung
   
Writer/director Kevin Reynolds is best known for his work with Kevin Costner. The two notoriously created ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ (1991) and ‘Waterworld’ (1995). But their collaboration began in 1985 when Reynolds cast Costner in a small, bittersweet comedy called ‘Fandango’ which was produced by Amblin Entertainment after Reynolds won a short film competition. ‘Fandango’ was one of Costner’s first roles and one of his best performances, and it is one of Reynolds’ best films. ‘Fandango’ has steadily built a cult following that is trying hard to lobby for a DVD version but you can still see this on VHS.

Set in 1971, five friends and roommates from the University of Texas (they call themselves, ‘The Groovers’) head off on a road trip just before graduation. In a few days, the five will forever change – from party-students to young men. And with war raging in Vietnam, it also means that some of the friends may be drafted into the military. Faced with such impending change, the friends decide that this road trip to Mexico will be something memorable before they face the real world and responsibility.

The great cast includes Costner, nominally starring as Gardner, the irresponsible party animal; Judd Nelson as Philip, an anally-retentive worrywart and the perfect counterbalance to Gardner; Sam Robards as the anxious virgin boy, and Chuck Bush as a Belushi-like giant slob.

The film opens with the definition of the word ‘fandango’ up on the big screen – playful or foolish behavior – and we watch a couple of skittering creatures escape becoming road kill as the buddies roar by in a giant blue Cadillac of 1960s vintage. The five friends are well-written as they face maturity in different ways. Costner’s character plans to head north to Canada to evade the draft while the others ponder Vietnam, love and careers. Along the way, Gardner manages to pressure his friends into different kinds of therapy – whether it be drinking, whoring or skydiving.

It’s a beautifully composed film, balancing ‘Animal House’ antics with a smart, touching story. The Texas landscape is like a metaphor for potential and Costner makes Gardner a magnetic character, a young man eager to sow his oats. He’s like the bad boy in school that you know will be a bad influence but you’re persuaded to tag along for fun. Gardner wants to *live* and he sees Vietnam equal to a 9-to-5 job – a form of death. In one of the many poignant and well-written moments, Gardner toasts the sky, "Here's to us, by God. To us and them, and privileges of youth. Here's to us and what we were... and what we'll be."

Later in the film, while arguing with Philip about responsibility, Gardner quiets and says, “You know, Philip, one day when you’re old…” and his voice falters. It’s a great scene of restraint, as if Gardner, so anxious to live, can see 40 years in the future and the devastation of regret.

‘Fandango’ is reminiscent of ‘American Graffiti’ on a smaller scale but with the same sense of nostalgia and impending lost youth. It's definitely worth renting – a special moment at the beginning of Costner’s and Reynolds’ careers when they were both young unknowns. It’s refreshing to be reminded at how subtle and flexible Costner could be then, and at how good a debut the film was for Reynolds.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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