October Positivity: The Pretender (dir by Dave Christiano)


The 1987 film, The Pretender, invites us to meet Keith!

As played by Mark Rose, Keith is a typical high school student.  He has a job delivering pizzas.  He likes to hang out with his friends.  He likes to smoke.  He likes to drink.  He takes football a little bit too seriously.  And, most of all, Keith wants to get laid.

However, almost all of the girls at his high school have gone out with Keith and are tired of him.  At least, that’s the way that Keith and his friends explain it.  (Considering how unappealing Keith is, I think he might be giving himself a little bit too much credit.)  Though his friends insist that “Robin Williams” is the hottest girl in school, Keith sets his sights on Dana (Crystal Robbins).  Everyone wants to date Dana but everyone also knows that Dana is ultra-religious.

So, quicker than you can say Dangerous Liaisons or Cruel Intentions or even The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, Keith decides to pretend that he’s become ultra-religious as well!  Keith announces to everyone that he’s met that he became a Christian over the summer.  Keith even fools the leader of the school’s Christians, Frank (Dan Addington).  Keith reads the Bible.  Keith memorizes verses.  Keith goes to church.  And soon, Keith is kind of dating Dana!

Now, if you’re expecting me to say that all of this means that Keith actually becomes a Christian …. well, you’re wrong.  This is a film from the Christiano Brothers and a major theme running through almost all of their films is that most people who claim to be a Christian actually aren’t.  Indeed, the major Christiano theme always seems to be that you should trust no one.  That’s the case with Keith, who comes across as being something of a sociopath, a southwestern Patrick Bateman.  Keith is such a liar that he even convinces another friend of his to start a fight with Frank so that Keith can step in and protect Frank.  Keith may say that he’s all about Jesus but he’s still getting into fights on the football field and threatening kids in class.  Speaking of class, I’m a little bit curious about just what exactly Keith’s grades look like.  He spends so much time setting up fake confrontations and hiring people to lie for him, you have to kind of wonder if he actually has any time left for studying.  Those lies aren’t going to get you into SMU, Keith!  Eventually, much like Valmont, Keith is on the verge of getting what he wants from Dana but don’t worry!  Keith’s not a slick as he thinks he is.

The film is a definite time capsule, full of 80s styles, 80s haircuts, and 80s attitudes.  The grainy cinematography gives the film almost a documentary feel and, as a Southwesterner, it’s always nice when I get to watch a film where everyone has the same accent that I do.  That said, it’s a pretty silly film.  The problem is that Keith’s plan is so obvious that you actually kind of lose respect for Frank and Dana when they don’t immediately see through him.  This is one of those films where things happen not because they make sense but because the film needs them to happen in order to make a bigger point.  Still, the film ends on a slightly upbeat note, suggesting that redemption is available to even sociopaths, like these three toadsuckers below.

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