Playing with Fire (1983)

March 4, 2014 by adamsunderground

pwf2A widowed mother of two daughters, Cathy finally relents to an office coworker’s badgering for a date. Although she knows him to be a ladies’ man, concern from everyone around her about her withering social life convinces the cautious brunette to momentarily overlook Dan’s oversexed ways about the workplace.

What pushes this demure single mom back into the dating world is the wild child April, her teenage daughter. Confronting the truant teen for stealing her birth control pills, Cathy can longer ignore her non-existent sex life after the rebellious girl’s cruel retort, accusing her mother of having no more need for prophylactics. A former student at a hated reform school for unruly girls, April teeters on the brink of provoking an exasperated Cathy to send her back there.

Virginia, the older sister and an aspiring actress, is anxious to leave her watchful mother’s nest–if only she could just catch a break in her chosen profession. Heartless career ambition drives this twenty-something to unapologetically inflict her long-suffering boyfriend Frank to sexual infidelities. Using the pseudonym “Janie” in luring a movie producer to bed, Virginia instead seduces Dan in a one night stand before his date with Cathy, with neither aware of the other’s connection to the working mother.

Cathy’s hopes take flight after her date with Dan, and a serious relationship arises, contrary to her initial reservations and expectations. His formerly wandering eye now can only see her. The lovers are swept up amid a whirlwind romance over the next few weeks, which culminates in their spontaneous elopement and marriage. To blend their mixed families into one, Dan later brings Cathy and her daughters into his home, joining his teenage son Lester from a prior divorce. However, a serious problem endangers the new family’s happiness, as both Dan and Virginia soon recognize each other, to their mutual horror. They immediately conspire to keep their one time fling a secret from her mother to spare her feelings, a pact April overhears while eavesdropping…

Nothing more can be revealed without spoiling the plot. See page 2 for the rest of this story about a compulsive womanizer and his awkward teenage son getting more than they bargained for after uniting with a harried mother of two burgeoning harlots. It ain’t The Brady Bunch (although that’s probably a Hustler parody’s title by now)!

AU Score
Total Grade: A
Specialty Grade
Screenplay A
Acting A
Cinematography B
Film Editing C
Visual Effects B
Audio B
Sound Editing B
Audio Effects B
Musical Score C
Production Design A

Technical Analysis

Aside from one or two exceptional shots, PF’s cinematography just misses top marks in quality for not taking enough chances.

Most sex scenes are hampered by the editing’s timing and frequency of cuts to multiple, but already notably staid, camera shots. Although it utilizes unexpected visual effects, April’s early dream/fantasy sequence should have been cut to allow more time for supporting the story and/or shoring up the other sex scenes. Its conclusion already reveals her character sufficiently, as she stops narrating her fantasy to join her classmates on the couch for an implicit three-way off camera.

All too predictably, the sound editing matches music only to sex scenes, leaving the script’s dramatic elements with one less tool to evoke something within the audience. This reviewer stopped counting after the fifth instance of the original theme song. PF’s soundtrack desperately needs more variety than just plugging in an instrumental version. Redundancy like this can impede a viewer’s mind from immersing itself in the visuals.

Click page 2 below for the plot’s conclusion of Playing with Fire


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