Director: Martha Coolidge

Starring: Val Kilmer, Gabriel Jarret, William Atherton

Year: 1985

My favorite film of the year is the documentary Val, which tells the story of Val Kilmer’s life & career through many home videos & current interviews, all narrated by his son and told with a heart that can’t be measured.  Enter a rewatch of Real Genius, one of my all-time favorite 80s flicks and an all-time performance by Kilmer during the budding of his career.  This film and this role are magic spells in the guise of moving pictures; once you see them you will never be the same again.

High schooler Mitch gets into a prestigious technical institute and thinks that’s the highlight of his life, that he’s made it and is destined for great things; it’s not quite that simple, kid.  First off, his roommate Chris is a savant who never goes to class, can’t be serious, and likes to throw clothes around the room.  Second, there’s a bizarre silent man living in his dorm closet.  And third, his lead professor is secretly building a laser for the US government that will clandestinely be used for assassinations around the world.  But if Mitch & Chris can get their act together, maybe they can stop catastrophes and pass tests, while still finding time to party.

This film is 80s perfection all around, from the music to the dress, the theme to the characters.  But it’s more than that, more than genre or time capsule, it’s a movie with real heart, real honesty, and real, well, genius.  It’s heartfelt and open about war and weapons and government, about anxiety and pressure and driving yourself crazy over the temporary while you miss out on the meaningful.  It’s also one of Val Kilmer’s best roles; he’s so genuine as Chris, so full of life, so funny, and it’s just so effortless.  Iconic moments layered upon classic lines, Real Genius is something to see again & again, with new tricks around every corner.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★