Vision Quest (1985)
FILM: RITES OF YOUTH IN 'VISION QUEST'
By VINCENT CANBY
Published: February 15, 1985
MOVIES are not like people who, if they're basically nice and decent, can be liked even if they're not very stimulating company. Movies of that order wear one down. They demand attention without giving much in return - amiability is not enough.
This is ''Vision Quest,'' which is not a science-fiction film, as you might think, but a low-keyed, sincerely acted coming-of-age movie about Louden Swain (Matthew Modine), a high school wrestler who's just turned 18 and is obsessed equally by losing his virginity and winning a match against Shute (Frank Jasper), the toughest wrestler in the state.
To this end, Louden must lose 23 pounds to qualify for Shute's weight class, which means a rigid schedule of exercise and diet that, in turn, leads to such physical strain you suspect that ''Vision Quest'' is going to turn into a sentimental teenage death movie.
It doesn't. It doesn't touch any unexpected bases at all.
Mr. Modine, tall and lanky with the kind of boyish charm that Gary Cooper carried well through middle age, is becoming one of the best - and busiest - young movie actors of his generation, as he is demonstrating currently in ''Birdy'' and ''Mrs. Soffel.'' ''Vision Quest,'' which opens today at the Criterion and other theaters, isn't a one-man show. The other members of the cast are almost as good, but there's something very dim about the sum of their work.
Harold Becker (''Taps,'' ''The Onion Field'') directed Darryl Ponicsan's screenplay, adapted from a novel by Terry Davis, set, as is the film, in Spokane, Wash. The supporting characters include Louden's affable father (Ronny Cox); a pretty young woman named Carla (Linda Fiorentino), who teaches Louden about sex; Louden's best friend Kuch (Michael Schoeffling), a wrestler who fancies the hair-cut of an Indian brave, and, briefly, Louden's grandfather (Roberts Blossom).
The entire film builds toward Louden's match with the ferocious Shute, a sequence that should have the excitement of a horse race but is something of an anti-climax. The finer points of honest wrestling - as opposed to the choreographed grunting and groaning of professional wrestling - are fairly subtle and I, at least, never shared the suspense of the match with the characters in the film because I hadn't a clue as to which one was ahead. Only the scoreboard knew.
No Holds Barred
VISION QUEST, directed by Harold Becker; screenplay by Darryl Ponicsan, based on a novel by Terry Davis; director of photography, Owen Roizman; film editor, Maury Winetrobe; music by Tangerine Dream; produced by Jon Peters and Peter Guber; released by Warner Bros. At Criterion, Broadway and 45th Street; Manhattan Twin, 59th Street east of Third Avenue and other theaters. Running time: 108 minutes. This film is rated R. Louden SwainMatthew Modine CarlaLinda Fiorentino KuchMichael Schoeffling Louden's FatherRonny Cox TanneranHarold Sylvester CoachCharles Hallahan ElmoJ.C. Quinn Margie EpsteinDaphne Zuniga KevinR.H. Thomson