From Smooth Talk (1985), dir. Joyce Chopra (image courtesy Cinetic Media)

In recent years, there’s been a push to restore and preserve female-directed films from the 1980s that failed to garner appreciation in their time or fell into obscurity. We’ve seen movies like Susan Seidelman’s Smithereens (1982) and Bette Gordon’s Variety (1983) get their proper recognition. Now, Joyce Chopra’s 1985 feature Smooth Talk, starring a young Laura Dern early in her career, has received a 4K restoration and re-release, and it’s well worth rediscovery.

Based on the Joyce Carol Oates short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?“, the film is a minutely detailed capsule of life for ’80s California teens, with a 19-year-old Dern playing Connie, whose experiments in her burgeoning sexuality often put her at odds with her mother. Chopra has a precise eye for the vagaries of young adulthood, an Dern perfectly embodies the push-pull between Connie’s curiosity and desire and the often-intimidating reality of adulthood. This comes to the fore with the arrival of “Arnold Friend” (a terrifying Treat Williams), an alternately seductive and threatening stranger who offers Connie “a ride” in his car. Equally a coming of age and suspense story, Smooth Talk can now get the attention it deserves.

Smooth Talk is now available to stream via Film at Lincoln Center.

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Dan Schindel

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