Louis Gossett Jr.
A summer romance (read: fling) develops over the course of 13 weeks. During this time there is a dance that introduces the boys, Mayo and Worley (Gere, David Keith) to the [slutty] girls across the lake (the raspy-voiced Winger, who weaseled her way into an Oscar nomination, and Lisa Blount). It’s not long before puppy love develops, as each couple sneaks off for quickies. And then there is Mayo’s decision to break it off before “school” lets in. While remaining sweet, too much of the romance feels like one of The Wonder Years’ best episodes.
The goal for most of the uniform-obsessed women located outside of the base is to land themselves a Naval Officer, and are not above using their own form of capture: forged pregnancy. The only one with respect for a man is the homely Winger, who I’ve been informed is NOT the “Gentleman” in the title. Paula’s drive is hinted at throughout, and spelled out when she shows Mayo a picture of her deceased father. It’s then that it’s revealed her father was formerly a Naval Officer--she respects the man in uniform—or does she have an incestuous fascination with her father? After all, what’s a military film without an objectionable subtext?
Gere handles himself with goofy yet attractive flair, particularly during a streetfight brought on by a loud-mouthed drunk who calls Gere a “war monger”, causing Gere to drop a few backhands and a crescent kick to the mouth, all the while looking like a Village Person trained by Pat Morita.
Director Taylor Hackford brings out the real guns for Louis Gossett, Jr.’s hard-edged scenes. We appreciate Gossett, Jr. the same way we love R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket—they’re bold, foul-mouthed drill sergeants with classic (and similar) one-liners. But Gossett’s Sergeant Foley has far more dimension, even a sensitive side. It’s no surprise to find that Gossett, Jr. was trained by Ermey for his Academy Award winning role.
Sure, An Officer and a Gentleman contains more corn than my grandmother’s famous veggie soup, like in the iconic finale and its freeze-frame self. But even so, there is a well-balanced potluck of machismo and sensitivity, guided by Hackford’s nurturing vision.
An Officer and a Gentleman, even with its adolescent undertones, is a story of love, both searched and lost—the need for acceptance. It remains one of the most developed romances in history, thanks to its combined awkwardness and realism. Maybe our lives won’t experience a complete turnaround, but after viewing Officer, it's likely we'll have a fresh view on what love really means.
An Officer and a Gentleman: 25 Years Later (28:02): This is a generic reunion piece with commentary from numerous cast/crew members (conspicuously absent is Winger). Those involved delve into the film’s impact, how Officer was a launching pad for much of the cast, Hackford’s directorial techniques, and a few of the film’s key sequences.
Return to Port Townsend (12:17) is a tribute to the Washington town, with Louis Gossett, Jr. visiting the town 25 years later mixed with footage of select cast/crew and local residents commenting on how the shoot had an impact on the town and their lives. A sweet little piece.
True Stories of Military Romance (7:09): The title sounds corny, but this is a breezy bit focusing on “military couples” sharing stories on how their relationships formed and how they remain strong. Surprisingly charming, but ‘Up Where We Belong’ is really starting to get old…
The Music of An Officer and a Gentleman (9:14) is part tribute (to composer Jack Nitzsche) and part look at how his score developed into the Oscar-winning, Billboard #1, and #75 ranked on the AFI’s 100 Songs list, ‘Up Where We Belong.’
Gere and Gossett: Hand to Hand Combat (3:16) is a quickie on Gere and Gossett’s martial arts training, which is showcased in their climactic fight.
And a Photo Gallery finishes off the features.