“When there is not enough space, there is pressure.”
Summer Lovers, 1982 (Daryl Hannah), Filmways
Good-looking young couple Peter Gallagher and Daryl Hannah take a summer house on the Greek island Santorini. Fresh from college graduation, I gather Gallagher is itching to settle down, but he becomes infatuated with a French archaeologist named Lina, on assignment at a nearby excavation site. He follows her around like a puppy dog and pretends not to spy on her, which is totally what he is doing, and she is aware of it. These days, that would be considered some form of harassment. Meanwhile, Daryl, obviously bored, reads up on advanced (and ancient) sexual practices and techniques. She speaks to Gallagher of her bondage fantasies. Later that night, he agrees to be tied up, while she drops hot candle wax on him.
Peter accompanies Lina to a nude beach. She strips down. Uncomfortable, he also strips, but very quickly hides his shortcomings, as it were. I wonder if these people ever worry about skin cancer. Ultimately liberated by his nudity, he jumps into the water and swims. He and Lina swim to a secluded cove and make love. He confesses to Daryl, telling her he’s confused, doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. Daryl is pissed. She takes off and heads to a bar where she lets a kid hit on her. Meanwhile, Gallagher hooks up with Lina again. The kid takes Daryl back to his house, offers her drugs, which she declines. She fends off his advances and leaves. She can’t bring herself to make love to another man. While Gallagher firmly believes he has an “open” relationship with Hannah, her feelings are hurt.
Daryl rushes off to confront Lina, but this other woman is sweet and accommodating, she can’t bring herself to hate her. She tells Daryl she doesn’t want to destroy her relationship with Gallagher. They start hanging out together, as an unusual threesome. Gallagher becomes uncomfortable (yet again!) at the prospect of his girlfriend and his lover becoming friends. This film could be easily re-edited as a comedy. I can’t help but feel sorry for Lina, who appears to be caught in the middle of good old fashioned American Jealousy. A sexually liberated, young French woman, Lina doesn’t immediately understand their problems, nor does she seem to care. Daryl tells Peter she likes the girl. Songs by Tina Turner play in montage pieces in a foreshadowing of the kind of cinema for which the eighties would become known.
One night, the three of them share wine, kisses, and finally sex. With the initial tension out of the way, they’re finally having fun to the strains of “I’m So Excited”. Regardless of the heavy adult content, this movie feels like innocent fun, a call-back to a different time where everything seemed to be permitted, and nothing was particularly sacred. The use of popular songs (disco, new wave, and rock) of the time, and the patina of early MTV-style cinematography and editing contribute to a wonderful yet dated appeal. Indeed, once Gallagher and Hannah, shed their inhibitions and get with Lina, it finally feels like they’re truly enjoying their vacation, which is weird. The three spend an enormous amount of time nude in the film and enjoying each other’s company. This is another case (as with Blame It On Rio) of a mainstream movie that would never be made today, or if it were, it would be severely neutered for the sensibilities of today’s audiences.
Director Randal Kleiser had previously shown his skill at telling stories involving young people with 1978’s mega-hit, Grease, and 1980’s The Blue Lagoon. In 1984, he would direct Grandview, U.S.A. The film is beautifully shot, but the youthful cast seems lazy and uninterested and spends more time taking their clothes off than putting them on. In a movie filled floor-to-ceiling with unabashed nudity, there are no sex scenes. While a very interesting character study of post-college frustration, boredom, and rebellion, I would not classify Summer Lovers as romance. Perhaps a Graduate-like drama about a different generation; the children of the first boomers in an era of prosperity and promiscuity, doing things they will one day regret but always remember.