Today many movies are for entertainment and are not classically great. I believe a great movie is one that you can’t get enough of; you just have to watch it over and over again. The movie Perfect falls under the “great” category. Usually movies are categorized into one or two genres, but Perfect takes the cake and slices its way into three categories: drama, comedy, and romance. Too bad sexy isn’t a genre. Perfect is a great movie because it manages to capture a time period with its awesome history, radical setting, and bitchin’ acting. When we think of films rooted in history we often think Schindler’s List or Hotel Rwanda, but not Perfect. Perfect is, however, based upon a series of articles by journalist Aaron Latham that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine in the ’70s and ’80s.
The movie’s two main characters are Adam Lawrence (John Travolta), a writer for Rolling Stone, and Jessie (Jamie Lee Curtis), a fitness instructor for The Sports Connection. The movie begins with Adam trying to persuade his boss Mark (Jann Wenner, real-life founder and editor of Rolling Stone) to send him to Los Angeles to get an interview with a notorious mobster. Mark agrees to send Adam to California with the stipulation that Adam will simultaneously write a story about fitness clubs becoming the new “singles’ bars” in California.
In the ’80s, the health and fitness craze was in full swing. Bally’s Total Fitness, Richard Simmons, Olivia Newton John’s Let’s Get Physical, and Nike’s Just Do It campaign were all introduced. The Sports Connection was a legendary institution, considered a main hub of America’s newfound obsession with StairMasters, dance aerobics, and sweatbands. It was the first club to give its members the total package, offering healthy foods, juice bars, instructor-led training sessions, and a place where singles could meet other singles. Although the film is not historical in the traditional sense, it captures the essence of the sun-soaked, sweat-drenched California of the eighties. The beaches, palm trees, roller skating, and overall California vibe are a constant backdrop, not to mention the blatant sexuality of living in California during the height of the fitness craze. Jessie also represents the archetypical fitness instructor, wearing leg warmers, headbands, tights, and leotards throughout the film. When a movie is able to weave non-fictional events into a fictional framework, there is much more substance.
Perfect was filmed in New York and California in 1985. The movie starts in Adam’s New York-based office. When Adam makes it to California, he immediately tries to get an interview with McKenzie (the mobster), to no avail. Adam sets out to explore the gym scene and chooses The Sports Connection, playfully dubbing it “The Sports Erection.” During Adam’s tour of the gym he meets Jessie, and eventually learns that she is an ex-Olympian who did not compete in the 1980 games due to an infamous boycott. Instead of pursuing a dry rundown of the fitness scene, Adam decides to examine a different angle by exploring the overall shallowness of the pursuit to be “perfect” in Los Angeles. Initially, Adam is completely insensitive to the gym goers he meets. They are enthusiastic about being a part of the article, completely oblivious to the harsh tone of the piece. Jessie is the only person resistant to Adam’s inquiries, but their immediate physical chemistry leads them to start spending time together. And here is where the fun begins.
In one of Perfect‘s most memorable scenes, Jessie invites Adam to take one of her aerobics classes. The provocative, four-minute scene is incredibly seductive. There are leg warmers, pelvic gyrations, sweat, and dance. For four minutes Jessie and Adam engage in not-so-subtle aerobic innuendo while locking eyes like caged animals. You feel as if you shouldn’t be watching. The background music is Jermaine Jackson’s Shock Me With Your Love, and it does! Watching this scene on YouTube, I couldn’t help but notice the first comment, “I need a cigarette after watching.” The setting is so aesthetically detailed, you feel as if you’re in 1985. But I will warn you now: It’s not my fault if you notice your pelvis pumping up and down during the aerobic scenes. They’re contagious!
The Perfect soundtrack includes Whitney Houston, Jermaine Jackson, The Pointer Sisters, and Wham!. The music was perfect for the time period and is incorporated into many of the film’s steamy dance aerobics scenes. And like the soundtrack, Travolta, Curtis, and the supporting cast are all superb. Travolta, in particular, displays his dramatic acting skills when conflict arises with his boss Mark. Mark is buggin’ out and wants Adam’s original idea published, but Adam is torn by his new respect and friendship of the people he originally thought were airheads.
Perfect is a decade-capturing movie. Less Than Zero captured the struggle of cocaine addictions in the ’80s. School Daze captured the struggle of African Americans’ internal conflict and political consciousness at an all-black college in the ’80s. Perfect will forever be endeared by those who lived the ’80s, especially those who grew up in sunny California. All of these films have the same goal. They show a period of time through real-life historical events, dance, music, and seduction. Perfect is a historical film, but not because you’ll read about it in the encyclopedia. It’s historical because it’s a time capsule of a very special time and place. The sun, the hair, the spandex, the men in short shorts… I want to watch Perfect over and over again. If someone said, “What were the eighties like?” I would say, “The eighties were perfect!”
Challenge: I dare you to stand in front of someone and reenact that scene. You know the one. Put on Shock Me With Your Love, stand 3 ft. apart, look into each other’s eyes, and go. Start your pelvic dance. No touching, just enjoy someone who is enjoying you! If you don’t get to 3rd base after watching this with your special one, you’re TOTALLY LAME!
Tomorrow we move on from pelvic gyrations to intensely sexual live performance with Prince’s Purple Rain! Don’t miss it!