Randal Kleiser’s “Summer Lovers” is a breezy film, like an easy-read when describing books. On the surface, it’s a simple movie that explores the sexual nature of human beings. While some may argue films are getting more explicit as the years pass, I guarantee you that you won’t find a plot anything like this 1982 flick of passion and exploitation.
The movie stars Peter Gallagher and Daryl Hannah as Michael and Cathy, a young couple vacationing in Greece for the entire duration of the summer. They aren’t married, so you can imagine how their vacation will be a test of their relationship.
Writer/director Randal Kleiser isn’t afraid of censorship. He entertained numerous adolescent males with his scandalous “The Blue Lagoon” two years earlier, a film starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins. Shields and Atkins star as two young kids who find themselves stranded and alone on a deserted island after a nasty storm separates the two from their company. They learn to survive on the island, and eventually grow into young and ripe adults. The movie is probably most famous for showcasing Shields and Atkins completely naked through most of it.
“In Summer Lovers,” there is almost just as much nudity, but only because the backdrop is Greece, which is known for its many nude beaches. While both Hannah and Gallagher show a lot of skin, much of nudity is handled by the sun-bathing extras, easily found by the camera.
What makes this film an exploitation piece is how the nudity is structured in the film, much of it coming at unfitting and unnecessary times. I believe Hannah was restricted by a clause that limited the amount of skin she showed, because her most revealing scenes happen very early on, and her most concealing ones (though only partialy) take place later.
The actual test of the relationship in “Summer Lovers” doesn’t happen until Lina (Valérie Quennessen) enters the stage. She is seen sun-bathing on a cliff by Michael who immediately becomes attracted to her in a mysterious way. He eventually encounters her and joins her on the beach where the two have their first discussion while they happen to be naked. One thing leads to another, and soon Michael and Lina have sex off in a cave somewhere.
But Michael is a good person. He is bothered by the fact that he has been unfaithful, and soon confesses to Cathy. She naturally doesn’t take it well, but instead of cutting their vacation short, Cathy wants to learn more, and eventually approaches Lina to learn why Michael has been seeing her.
This love triangle becomes a learning experience for Cathy, Michael and Lina. Surviving the summer means growing and coming to an understanding about passion and the fantasies of individuals. The movie turns when the three try spending the summer together, as lovers in a three-way relationship.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, you don’t see this plot written in movies today, probably because something like this is considered borderline soft core porn. And it is exploitation, but it doesn’t go past the R-rated realm. There is a purpose to the film; an enjoyable one about characters coming to terms with their sexuality.
Conflicts occur when: parents decide to show up, the fact that summer’s end will be the end of trio, jealous characters come into play, and attitudes change that once kept Michael and Cathy close. An attempt will be made to solve each conflict; some will be more successful than others.
The acting is pretty bad and the dialogue is cheesy, but it wasn’t considered so in the early eighties, at a time when is was normal for movies to have bad acting and cheesy dialogue. But even if that was an issue back then, or if the movie was made this year, the subject matter alone is what makes “Summer Lovers” worth watching.
Will you learn anything from this movie? It doesn’t teach anything, but it will make you reflect upon your views of what is and isn’t appropriate in modern day relationships. Would you ever have a three-way with your partner and someone else? How about with a complete stranger? Does such a concept even happen in real life between two devoted parters? Either way, the film’s portrayal of this taboo concept is worth a look.
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