Being in the Army can blow, especially if the guy who’s constantly yelling at you really wants an Oscar.
Dreams of being a Navy pilot prompt Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) to enroll in officer training school, where he runs afoul of a drill instructor (Louis Gossett Jr.) who senses the cadet’s loner instinct and aims to school him on the importance of teamwork — or break him in the process. In the meantime, Mayo romances a working girl (Debra Winger), ignoring warnings to steer clear of the local lasses out to bag hotshot Navy flyboys.
This is a film that I’ve heard so much about from my parents, aunts, uncles, and even grand-parents. But since it has Richard Gere in the main cast, I wasn’t too happy to see it but I can say that this is one of those very few Richard Gere flicks that I actually enjoyed. Did I mention Richard Gere by any chance?
This film has a very old-fashioned feel to it but its set in the cool and hip 80’s. The whole idea of the modern “American dream” was still alive in the U.S. and this film showed how young working-class citizens could still have that dream fulfilled, and this is what sort of reminded me of films from the 40’s when we were off fighting in the war. I liked this feel and most of that is that is thanks to director Taylor Hackford.
Hackford does a great job with this material because he keeps this story building-up, to where we have a feel for all of these characters and why or why not we should give a rat’s ass about them. I liked how Hackford also kept this happy spirit alive within the film, even though there are some pretty dark moments that will sure ring into your mind as shocking but still very well-placed. Hackford is basically creating a happy-go-lucky story about a young and restless kid going into his life of manhood, something that was a huge staple back in the black-and-white days of film, but he adds a little bit more edginess with some sexy time, rough language, and a lot more violence than I actually expected.
The problem with this story and with this film overall is that even the film entertained me for the most part, I still couldn’t get involved with this story at all. I knew what was going to happen with this story because it’s all so cheesy and predictable at points, but I could never get involved with the character Zack Mayo. This guy seems like a total dick, who doesn’t really care about himself or the others around him and the whole time we’re supposed to watch him on-screen and possibly root for him. I didn’t take this in by one second and at the end of the film we’re supposed to believe he’s a changed man by saying thank you to people. Yeah, OK!
Speaking about the ending, I knew exactly what was going to happen since I’ve heard about it 100 times beforehand and seen it spoofed in all of these other shows and what not but my main problem with this ending was that it was way too sentimental and by the end of the flick, I didn’t think anything was changed. Mayo still seemed like a dick, but this time he just had a love in his life. Nothing new, just the same old dude.
Richard Gere has never been one of my favorites and here he does an OK job as Zack Mayo, but once again he’s not really doing anything new that I haven’t already seen him done before. Mayo is a dick and Gere is pretty good at playing that but I just never could get behind this guy for some odd reason. Debra Winger is very good as “his girl”, Paula, and actually creates a character that you can root for because she doesn’t want to love him, but sometimes, you just gotta give into the love. They create a good chemistry together and it’s a shame that I don’t see Winger in anything anymore other than indie productions like ‘Rachel Getting Married’. David Keith also is fine as Mayo’s good buddy, Sid, who always seems to be there for him no matter what.
The best performance out of the whole cast actually won an Oscar, which isn’t a real surprise but it’s Louis Gossett Jr. as Sgt. Emil Foley. Right from the get-go this guy is a total bad-ass that just shows up and tears about every single person he sees into pieces. He’s loud, funny, and altogether, just a total joy to watch even when this film does start to get very serious and dive into some pretty dark material, but he still found a way to keep me laughing and just pretty intimidated as well. “Mayooonaiseee!”.
Consensus: Some moments are cheesier than others, and the central character isn’t a very likable one, but An Officer and a Gentleman still has a lot of heart when it comes to creating a genuinely entertaining story, with good performances to back it up as well.