Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What's Your Shue Size?

I’m in love with Elisabeth Shue. There, I’ve said it. Sorry, Gus. Back in the day, she won my heart when – as Ali Mills – she first kicked that soccer ball away from Ralph Macchio’s Daniel in The Karate Kid, sending him down the beach to try to protect him from the school bully. You remember that too, don’t you? Bananarama’s “Cruel Summer” was playing in the background during this scene, echoing out from the state-of-the-art boom box. My mother and I re-watched The Karate Kid a year or two ago, and it really holds up: Daniel’s relationship with Ali is one of the film’s pivotal emotional cores, and I’ll never forget how lovingly they danced together inside his shower curtain Halloween costume.
Shortly after Daniel-son crane-kicked his way to victory, Ms. Shue appeared in one of the best movies ever made, Adventures in Babysitting. She and I almost missed our chance at true love this go-round: my brothers and I had been misbehaving *so badly* one day that my mother had a mini meltdown and canceled our plans to see the flick later that afternoon. I was devastated: what was a young gay-boy-in-the-making to do without my dose of my favorite blond actress? Luckily, my mom didn’t stick to her guns with our grounding and took us to see this heartfelt comedy a few days later. (It felt like Elisabeth and I were running in slow motion toward one another in a sun-dappled field filled with flowers.)
Elisabeth Shue stole my heart in Cocktail yet again. I remember being, um, interested in the scene where she and Tom Cruise kiss naked underneath the waterfall. In retrospect – and yes, this is 1980s Tom Cruise we’re talking about, folks, so withhold your judgment – I was probably itching to be Elisabeth Shue in that scene. (I think I’ve written about this before in my blog – read into this what you must!) Over the years, time and again, she’s stepped up to the plate and impressed me (Leaving Las Vegas, The Trigger Effect, The Saint). And have any of you seen Link, the ape-gone-mad horror-drama? This is one weird movie, and hard to describe; I highly recommend it. Nuff said.
Now, in my mid-thirties, I’ve been twice wowed by some of Elisabeth Shue’s best work to date: as an onscreen mom. In both 2004’s Mysterious Skin and 2012’s The House at the End of the Street, Shue has totally floored me as a damaged-yet-protective, sexy-yet-vulnerable mother to Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jennifer Lawrence respectively. While Mysterious Skin uses her skills in that way only gritty indie dramas can, House allows her to shine in a slasher-ghost story setting filled with surprising twists. Shue, Lawrence, and fellow co-star Max Thieriot outdo themselves to create an atmosphere of impending dread, unsettling disquiet, bloody shocks, and – oddly enough – intimate, tender connection. Consider this my plug for The House at the End of the Street, just out this past weekend! Sure, some of the reviews aren’t great – but those reviews are wrong. Dead wrong, as they say. This tale, directed by Mark Tonderai, takes an old horror staple – “What if you moved in to a place where horrible murders happened?” – and flips it on its head, offering the underbelly, the true nature, of the goings-on. There’s something right, true, and fresh in the telling of this story.
Dear Elisabeth, I look forward to more of your films and to our continued relationship – and, admittedly, to a remastered, high-definition, deluxe edition release of Link someday. Is this the missing Link I've been waiting for?