Private School Reviews
Christine goes to a private school and stays in a sorority lifestyle living situation with several girl friends. One of the girls that lives with her, Jordan, wants to make life miserable for Christine and starts pursuing her boyfriend, Jim. Can Christine fend her off or will Jordan accomplish her goal?
"The tadpole and its community."
Noel Black, director of Mirrors, Promises to Keep, A Time to Triumph, My Two Loves, Prime Suspect, The World Beyond, The Golden Honeymoon, and I'm a Fool, delivers Private School. The storyline for this picture is just okay in a Van Wilder kind of way. The acting and comedic content is inconsistent and the cast includes Phoebe Cates, Betsy Russell, Matthew Modine, Fran Ryan, Sylvia Kristel, Kathleen Wilhoite, Ray Walston, and Frank Aletter.
"Sex education? That's my favorite subject!"
I recently came across this on HBOGO and had never seen it before so I decided to give it a shot. Well, this is very average and dates itself; however, this was a nice depiction of a young and hot Phoebe Cates (80s heart throb). Overall, this is just average and only worth watching if you're an 80s genre fan.
"Don't be so gentle!"
Now, it may seem strange that I criticize a movie for degrading women when I have given positive reviews for movies like Porky's and Reform School Girls, but this is a completely different kind of movie. Porky's had a bit more plot and juvenile character to it. Private School is all about getting girls naked as often as possible, including a shirtless horseback scene and girls getting naked just for guys peeping on them. The running time is all about girls doing things like aerobics, taking showers, or being groped by men.
There are plenty of movies like this, and that would be fine and dandy if not for the fact that this movie's plot and cover gives the idea that this is some sort of 80s romantic comedy in the vein of Can't Buy Me Love, Say Anything, or Sixteen Candles. It's not. This is sleaze. The plot involves a girl planning to lose her virginity to a guy for the first time, but there is a jealous housemate in the mix trying to steal her boyfriend. That is the plot for a movie meant to play to girls. But it isn't made like that. It's made more like a movie meant for a Roger Corman audience. I don't understand how guys can sit through a movie like this with such an eye rolling plot, and girls are certainly going to be put off by how offensive it is.
This movie had so many good things going for it: A great 80s cast, a classic 80s soundtrack, and a basic coming-of-age plot. Why it had to get so sleazy is beyond me.
But it doesn't prevent it from being a below-average film. Essentially, the plot is so thin with dynamics that are so tedious and repetitive that by the end of it, viewers no longer believe they've just seen a film and have a large sense of emptiness within them.
One severe problem is that Private School fails to make use of several of its cast members.
For starters, the lead actress Phoebe Cates whose known for her iconic bikini drop from the classic coming-of-age dramedy film Fast Times at Ridgemont High isn't used well in any way in Private School. Her character is a frail and emotionless girl with zero charisma and no sex appeal, save from the brief period in which her butt is in perspective. The entire film chronicles the sexual element of girls from a private school, but puts Phoebe Cates in the lead into a character who isn't asked to be sexy or comedic, and following on with her just isn't entertaining. But it isn't her fault, because the makers of Private School also give no sexualisation to the role played by Sylvie Kristel, the actress from the French erotic film Emmanuelle and from the 1981 dreadful sex comedy Private Lessons. Despite giving extremely sensual performances in both those films, in Private School, a sex comedy with plenty of nudity, she merely portrays a school teacher whose attractiveness is downplayed by the comparison to all the young and attractive females in her class, and her character isn't a strong one either so she's set up to fail on both levels.
But the plot is good because it lives out the fantasies of many testosterone-fuelled teenage boys hoping that girls think the same as boys in approach to sex, and Private School exposes the underside of the girls and their approach to sex in a humourous and unserious manner so that it no longer becomes a film about perverted boys and innocent girls, and therefore it finds a silver lining and characterises the women not as "sluts" or "whores", but sexually excited women. In terms of stereotypes that's a mere fantasy, but in actual fact it is a realistic depiction and so Private School unintentionally becomes a statement about sexual aggression in both males and females, so it does have relevance to the directors way of thinking and a decent meaning to it with the elimination of sexism.
And plus, there is a great amount of nudity in the story and its used in various fashions. The two most notable examples would be when Jordan Leigh-Jensen is riding topless on a horse while her breasts bounce in slow motion, or when Bubba successfully sneaks into the girls locker room, the land so many boys wish to be in, and witnesses several naked girls as they take a shower and run soapy water up and down their bodies. The nudity in Private School is sexy and tasteful, and so the sex part of this sex comedy is successful.
A large benefactor in that is the performance given by Betsy Russell, because she captures the role of a sexy bitch very finely and makes use of her body, particularly her breasts to tease the audience in a strong manner. She's incredibly sexy, seductive and even manipulative in Private School, and she does supply much charisma to the role so she lights up the screen when she rules it. She makes up for the shortcomings of the writers.
And lastly to ensure the atmosphere is a fun and unserious one, Private School has a decent soundtrack with music constantly playing out during the sexualised sequences so that they aren't empty but are taking a casual approach to the imagery, and it keeps the scenes from having a merely blank atmosphere.
So in the end, Private School isn't a great film, but it's easy to watch and has plenty of nudity so it isn't a boring one in the right frame of mind.
There really are no laughs in the movie because, although the situations are universal to most people, they are exaggerated here to heighten the embarrassment factor over genuine humor. The film stars the beautiful Phoebe Cates, and her sheer presence in this helps soften my feelings towards it. She is effervescent in this, and her relationship with Matthew Modine seems to come from a different movie mainly because it's written at a different level than the sophomoric humor and sex gags. She seems to be trying harder than this material to be good.
Just as memorable, but for a lot of different reasons, is co-star Betsy Russell who has the two single best scenes in the film. Her attempted seduction of Modine and the topless horseback ride will never be forgotten although the movie quickly will. Because of those two performances and a great soundtrack full of bouncy '80's pop songs (some recognizable and some by recognizable artists), "Private School" will always be slightly better than most other films of its type. Granted I didn't laugh but I also didn't want to storm away in anger (my usual reaction), so it does deserve kudos for that if nothing else. This is a lot easier to take than most.
Not only are they the best looking, but they are probably the best acting bunch found in an '80s TSC. Matthew Modine is the man caught in the middle of Betsy & Phoebe's affections, Ray Walston and Fran Ryan do their schoolmasterly duties, and Michael Zorek is the most affable portrayer of the required 'loudmouth horny fat guy' role.
Other indelible moments are Betsy's high temperature striptease and the ending group moonshot. There's plenty to bash about Private School and watching is sometimes a chore, but not many movies feature at least four scenes that you can instantly recall years later.
It's a light teen sex romp, and well worth a look to kill an afternoon.