Second Union

Second Union

VINTAGE SUMMER: My Tutor (1983)

“I don’t want you to do all your scoring in bed.”

My Tutor, 1983 (Caren Kaye) Crown International Pictures

Matt Lattanzi’s Bobby Chrystal is a good-looking kid, so I don’t understand why he has problems losing his virginity. He’s sweet, well-meaning, polite, and amiable unlike his friends, Billy and Jack (Clark Brandon and Crispin Glover), but this is the required archetype for a teen sex comedy of this kind. He has a crush on Bonnie, but she hangs out with a jerk named Biff. There’s always the good kid who just wants to do right by everyone; Stephen Geoffreys in Fraternity Vacation, or Rob Morrow in Private Resort (also directed by George Bowers), and then there are his friends egging him on.

Bobby’s friends take him to a brothel where he promptly passes out on top of Kitten Navidad’s enormous breasts. They pay a part-time tramp to canoodle with him in the backseat of a car before her psycho biker fiancé shows up to spoil the fun. Bobby’s dad (Kevin McCarthy) has dreams of his son attending Harvard. Being rich and powerful, he swings admission on the condition Bobby can take a make-up exam for his French finals. He hires the titular live-in tutor, Terry (Caren Kaye), with the promise of a $10,000 bonus if she can bring up Bobby’s scores.

I don’t know if any of you have seen Caren Kaye before but she doesn’t look like anybody’s tutor — at least in my generation. All my teachers looked like crusty old hags; humorless and cruel, lacking even the most basic empathy for their students. With Terry being closer in years (Kaye is roughly eight years older than Lattanzi) to Bobby, their burgeoning romance is believable. If Bobby were a scrawny 15-year-old, this whole situation would get creepy in a hurry. Terry doesn’t do anything to shield herself from the kid, but she also doesn’t pull punches with him.

She swims naked in the pool at night and he spies on her. He falls head-over-heels in love with her the second he sees her. Lattanzi plays this part very well; rather than something along the lines of a predator, he’s shy and uncomfortable with his feelings for her, and she’s just as uncomfortable embracing him. Terry’s not a bimbo. She’s earthy, smart, and sexy; quite possibly the perfect woman. When she catches him spying on her skinny-dipping, she gently reprimands him and then walks away. There’s a surprising amount of restraint for what could have been a smutty exercise.

One night, when Terry is distraught over her ex-boyfriend’s infidelity, Bobby comforts her. The two leads are shockingly good. When they’re with each other, they’re two completely different people than they are with other characters in the movie. Terry doesn’t want to lead him on — again, she speaks to him as though he were a real person and not a frustrated teenager or somebody’s son — and he can’t help being in love with his tutor. While they pursue their romance, she makes it clear this will end when he re-takes his test.

Unfortunately, the movie’s tender moments are undercut by the hijinks of Bobby’s friends. The comedy feels surgically transplanted into the movie to alleviate the tension of the romance. Bobby’s dad, embittered by a spurned advance on Terry, tells him about the $10,000 bonus, which infuriates Bobby. He decides he doesn’t want to study International Law at Harvard and instead opts for UCLA’s Astronomy program. When Bobby accuses her of prostituting herself for the bonus money, she slaps him, and damn if you don’t feel for these two! A little while later, they forgive each other and as she has bestowed him with confidence, he seeks out the girl he always had a crush on: Bonnie. His final scene with Terry made me a little dewy-eyed.

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