It’s the house.
I was recently trying to figure out what it was exactly that I enjoyed about the 1983 teen comedy My Tutor and I finally realized that it all came down to the house. Like almost every other teen film released in the 1980s, My Tutor is about rich people. The main character, recent high school graduate and frustrated virgin Bobby Chrystal (Matt Lattanzi), lives in an absolutely gorgeous house. There’s a huge pool in back and even the guest house appears to be bigger than any place that I’ve ever lived. Bobby lives in the type of mansion that I’ve always wanted to live in. For me, the best parts of My Tutor are the scenes that simply follow Bobby as he walks around the grounds of his home.
I just like seeing where people live.
I first came across My Tutor about two years ago when I got the Too Cool For School DVD box set from Mill Creek Entertainment. My Tutor was one of the 12 movies included in the box set and it was one of the first that I watched, just because the title seemed to promise all sorts of sordid fun. Looking back on the first time that I ever watched the film, my main impressions were that the film’s central plot — the affair between Bobby and his French tutor, Terry (Caren Kaye) — was actually handled with a surprising amount of sensitivity, that the great Kevin McCarthy was ideally cast as Bobby’s wealthy but sleazy father, and that the house was really nice.
When I rewatched the film for this review, I quickly discovered that I had either forgotten or managed to block from my mind about 5o% of the movie. Because, before Bobby and Terry take the fateful midnight swim that leads to their affair, the movie largely focuses on the efforts of Bobby and his friend Jack (the reliably weird and nerdy Crispin Glover) to each lose his virginity. The first half of the film is pretty much dominated by cartoonish scenes of Bobby passing out drunk at a brothel and Jack and his brother Billy (Clark Brandon) trying to pick up two female mud wrestlers. (If you have bondage fantasies about Crispin Glover, I guess this is the film to see.) At one point, all of the film’s action stops so that Bobby can have an elaborate fantasy about having sex with a girl that we’ve barely seen before and will never see again.
Bobby has problems beyond just his virginity. A recent high school graduate, he still has to retake and pass a French exam if he’s going to have any hope of getting into Yale. (Yale was where his father went to college. Bobby says he wants to go to UCLA and study the skies, even though he doesn’t ever say anything about astronomy beyond that he wants to major in it.) Bobby’s father hires him a tutor. Terry is only ten years older than Bobby and has just recently broken up with her boyfriend. She enjoys nude midnight swims, riding on motor scooters, and aerobic exercise. Before you know it, Terry and Bobby are having an affair, Bobby’s father is hitting on Terry, and Terry’s ex-boyfriend keeps coming up to the house searching for her.
And what’s surprising is that, once Bobby and Terry become lovers, the film changes. Well, it changes a little. Don’t get me wrong — it doesn’t suddenly turn into a great (or even a good) movie or anything like that. But the film really does make an attempt to realistically deal with the relationship between Bobby and Terry. Terry doesn’t suddenly abandon her dreams or her plans just because she’s now secretly sleeping with Bobby. Instead, Terry remains just as independent as before and, unlike a lot of films of the period, the film doesn’t condemn her for wanting a life of her own. If anything, the film chastises Bobby whenever he gets overly possessive of her. In the end, the movie suggests that the most important lessons Bobby learned weren’t about sex but instead, were about Terry’s right to live her own life.
Oddly enough, hiding within this typical teen comedy, there’s a surprisingly bittersweet film. Perhaps less surprisingly, this film — like The Young Graduates, The Teacher, Trip With The Teacher, Coach, and Malibu High — was yet another teacher-student-sex film produced by Crown International Pictures. Nobody handled potentially icky exploitation with quite the wit and grace of Crown International.