Vision Quest (1985)

Vision Quest (1985) - Linda Fiorentino

Taglines: All he needed was a lucky break. Then one day she moved in.

Vision Quest is a coming of age movie in which high school wrestler Louden Swain decides he wants to be something more than an average high school athlete and sets his sights on a prize that many don’t think he can win – he then sets out to reach his goal alone, without much support from his father or coach. His father rents a room to a young drifter, Carla. Swain falls in love with her and she helps him stay focused and prevents him from losing sight of his goals.

Vision Quest (released in the UK and Australia as Crazy for You) is a 1985 American coming-of-age drama film starring Matthew Modine, Linda Fiorentino and Ronny Cox. It is based on Terry Davis’ novel of the same name. Modine plays a Spokane high school wrestler who falls in love with an older woman, an aspiring artist from New Jersey on her way to San Francisco.

The film includes an appearance by Madonna, her first in a major motion picture, playing a singer at a local bar, where she performs the songs “Crazy for You” and “Gambler”. In some countries, the title of the film was changed to market on Madonna’s emerging fame and the popularity of the song “Crazy for You”. The film was shot in Spokane, Washington (United States), in the fall of 1983.

Vision Quest (1985)

Review for Vision Quest

We think we know the story pretty well already: Young wrestler has two dreams: (a) to win the state championship, and (b) to win the love of a girl. The defending state champion is a man-mountain who carries telephone poles to the top of stadiums. The girl is an independent drifter who is 20 years old and doesn’t take the hero seriously. By the end of the movie, the only suspense is whether it will end with a victory in bed or in the ring.

Although “Vision Quest” sticks pretty close to that outline, it is nevertheless a movie with some nice surprises, mostly because it takes the time to create some interesting characters. The movie’s hero, Louden Swain, is probably the closest thing to a standard movie character, but Matthew Modine plays him with such an ingratiating freshness that he makes the character quirky and interesting, almost in spite of the script.

The other people in the movie are all real originals. They include Louden’s father (Ronny Cox), who has lost the family farm and his wife, but still retains the respect of his son; Louden’s best pal (Michael Schoeffling), who bills himself as a “half-Indian spiritual adviser;” a black history teacher (Harold Sylvester) who cares about Louden and listens to him; an alcoholic short-order cook (J. C. Quinn) who works in the kitchen of the hotel where Louden’s a bellboy and a wrestling coach (Charles Hallahan) who has mixed feelings about Louden’s drive to get down to the 168-pound class so he can wrestle the toughest wrestler in the state.

All of those characters are written, directed and acted just a little differently than we might expect; they have small roles, but they don’t think small thoughts. And then there is the movie’s most original creation, the 20-year-old drifter, Carla (Linda Fiorentino). Without having met the actress, it’s impossible for me to speculate on how much of Carla is original work and how much is Fiorentino’s personality. What comes across, though, is a woman who is enigmatic without being egotistical, detached without being cold, self-reliant without being suspicious. She has a way of talking – kind of deliberately objective – that makes you listen to everything she says.

All of these people live in Spokane, which looks sort of wet and dark in many scenes, and feels like a place that prizes individuality. Instead of silhouetting the Modine character against the city and a lot of humble supporting roles, and turning him into a Rocky of wrestlers, the movie takes time to place the character in the city and in the lives of the other people. We begin to value his relationships, and it really means something when the short-order cook puts on a clean shirt and goes to the big wrestling meet.

The movie’s plot doesn’t really equal its characters. After the “Rocky” movies and “Breaking Away” and “The Karate Kid” (1984) and a dozen other movies with essentially the same last scene, it’s hard to care about the outcome of the big fight, or race, or match, because, let’s face it, we know the hero’s going to win. Just once, why couldn’t they give us characters as interesting as the ones in “Vision Quest,” in a movie where they’d be set free from the same tired old plot and allowed to live?

Vision Quest Movie Poster (1985)

Vision Quest (1985)

Directed by: Harold Becker
Starring: Matthew Modine, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Schoeffling, Ronny Cox, Harold Sylvester, Daphne Zuniga, Gary Kasper, Charles Hallahan
Screenplay by: Darryl Ponicsan
Production Design by: Bill Malley
Cinematography by: Owen Roizman
Film Editing by: Maury Winetrobe
Costume Design by: Susan Becker
Set Decoration by: Jeff Haley
Music by: Tangerine Dream
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: February 15, 1985