run time: 124 mins
considered: Drama, Romance
director: Taylor Hackford
starring: Richard Gere, Debra Winger, David Keith, Robert Loggia, Lisa Blount, Lisa Eilbacher, Louis Gossett Jr., Tony Plana, Harold Sylvester, David Caruso, Victor French, Grace Zabriskie, Tommy Petersen
movie summary: Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) enlists into the US Navy’s Aviation Officer Candidate School after years of living around the world with his alcoholic father Byron (Robert Loggia). Byron has been serving in the US Navy his whole life and after Zack’s mom commits suicide he’s stuck with the kid until he decides to enlist. Zack realizes he’s never gonna go places in life so decides to join up where he becomes best friends with Sid Worley (David Keith), meets a beautiful girl named Paula (Debra Winger), and butts heads with Marine Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley (Louis Gossett, Jr.) during his training to become an officer and better person.
On the first day of basic training everyone lines up in front of Foley who begins to pick apart the group by making fun of their hometown. He’s trying to push their buttons and find their breaking point, his goal is to turn this rag-tag group of candidates into officers in just a few months. After a stern lecture everyone gets their head shaved, receives their gear, and then get their assigned bunks. While outside waiting for the rest of the group Zack, Sid, and female candidate Casey Seeger (Lisa Eilbacher) are telling jokes so Foley yells at them to drop and give him 50 push ups. As Zack and Sid are struggling to do push ups Paula and her friend Lynette (Lisa Blount) walk into the administration offices looking really sexy in low-cut dresses. The guys are stunned and instantly fall in love. Foley yells at them some more about how girls will try to trap them by getting pregnant and living off their officer salaries before ordering another 50 push ups for looking at the girls.
After a few weeks the candidates are finally given some liberty time so most of them attend an Officer’s ball to mingle with other candidates and their superiors. Paula and Lynette happen to attend the same ball so Zack and Sid make their move to introduce themselves and dance with the girls. Shortly after the couples split up and go their separate ways for a night of fun. The girls begin to meet the guys every weekend they have liberty and their romances blossom each time. Sid is crazy in love with Lynette while Paula has fallen head over heels for Zack. The weekends mainly consider of lying around in bed, home cooked meals, and lots of talk about future plans.
Back at the training school, one of the most important parts of the officer’s uniform is polished belt buckles, cuffs, and shoes. Zack has a friend who works for the training facility who provides him with brand new stuff every week for inspection. Foley finally catches Zack with the goods and demands he get DOR (Drop on Request). Zack argues with him while the rest of the candidates leave for their liberty time. Foley puts Zack through the ringer over the weekend making him endure hours upon hours of physical training until he breaks and quits. Zack struggles all weekend but finally breaks down and admits that he doesn’t want to leave because he has no where else to go. Foley finally made him crack and walks away with a smile. When the candidates return they find out that Zack is still there but has changed his attitude and is now more of a team player then a loner.
It was two full weeks since Paula saw Zack so when the pair finally get together they spend a very passionate night together. There’s only two weeks left of training so Paula understands that Zack will be assigned to a Navy base far away from her and that this relationship is really just a fling. After that special weekend Zack stops calling Paula and spends the final two liberty weekends partying with other candidates and training for the course record. Sid meanwhile continues to see Lynette who tells him she’s pregnant. When he returns to base he confines in Zack who argues with him about how stupid he was. The pair share one final lunch together before Sid has a panic attack during a training session and requests to be dropped from the program with only one week left. He vows to Zack that he will make the situation right with Lynette so goes out and buys an engagement ring.
Zack’s life is about to be turned upside when Lynette rejects Sid’s engagement. He can’t handle the fact she won’t marry him and that he dropped out of officer school for her. He checks into the hotel where the couples spend all their time while Zack leaves school to track Sid down. He picks up Paula and the two look together which only leads to an argument about how Zack wants to be alone and doesn’t want her anymore. She is left hurt and heartbroken when he returns to school to graduate, set a new course record, and get his assignments. When he finishes his training he realizes that there is something missing from his life as he watches Foley break in a new class of candidates, he drives off on his motorcycle in search of the one thing he is missing.
my thoughts: Romantic movies used to be so powerful and meaningful back in the day, today everything is played up through romantic comedies or a book by Nicholas Sparks. An Officer and a Gentleman is a fantastic movie from 1982 that was about real love, a love that could last a lifetime. There’s real chemistry between the characters and the story isn’t overly played up, there is just the right combination of emotions that will make you smile and cry.
An Officer and Gentleman was Richard Gere’s eighth career movie that helped establish him as a hollywood star and leading ladies’ man. He does an amazing job as Zack Mayo despite not being nominated for an Academy Award. Zack was a troubled child who needed direction in his life, he was rebellious and very confrontational, but after he meets Paula he begins to change into a better person which would help him become a better officer. He’s not book smart but street smart with the knowledge to fight his own battles and the ability to survive. Critics fell in love with Debra Winger’s Paula character because she was nominated for Best Actress. Anyone can see that she is one of those kind of girls who dreams of marrying a military man because of all the perks, but at the end of the day she’s just a girl who wants to fall deeply in love. She works a job and can take care of herself, she just wants to find a connection and when she meets Zack the sparks fly.
Louis Gossett Jr. won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as drill instructor Emil Foley. When anyone thinks of basic training movies there’s only two drill instructors in the history of film that stick out above and beyond anyone else and those are Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey) from Full Medal Jacket and Sergeant Emil Foley from An Officer and a Gentleman. Foley is one mean son of bitch who will push you until you break which in the end will turn you into a better candidate and officer. He doesn’t take any crap from anyone and isn’t afraid to get into a physical confrontation if the solution requires it. Besides the story focusing on the two couples and their love angles, Foley is just as important in transforming all the characters into better people.
Hidden within the storyline and candidates is a young David Caruso and Harold Sylvester who experience the military life alongside Lisa Eilbacher. David Keith plays the idiot best friend who lets his emotions get the best him while Lisa Blount ends up as the girl everyone hates for her the poor decisions she makes while acting greedy and dumb. Their failed romance is a major turning point in the story that helps shape the relationship between Zack and Paula.
my final thoughts: An Officer and a Gentleman is one of those rare movies that showcase the power of real love and the struggles that come with having a relationship while serving in the military. There will be laughs and heartbreak which make this a fantastic movie about what falling in love can do to a person.
my star rating: 9 out 10
imdb.com: 6.9 out 10
rottentomatoes.com: 81% out 100%
rogerbert.com: 4 out 4