Hard to Hold

The first 40 minutes or so of Hard to Hold were the most surprising minutes I’ve spent watching film all year. No, the movie isn’t daring, or otherwise unconventional. But I walked in expecting to see pop star Rick Springfield do an ego number in what would probably be an extended MTV video performance.

Instead, what I saw bore an astonishing resemblance to a real movie. The film begins with Springfield (as a rock star, of course) getting involved in some slapstick business after a concert. He’s running around the halls with nothing on but a towel and an earring (a sight that provoked much high-pitched squealing from some of the younger members of the audience—and probably some of the older ones, too).

Driving home—home is San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel, where he’s staying while putting together an album—he smacks into another car, which as these, things happen, is driving by a very lovely woman (Janet Eilber). She’s never heard of him, and she’s not too happy about the car, but he’s smitten. Naturally, a courtship ensues, and her hard-to-get routine becomes less and less convincing, even to her.

We know she’s won over when we see her put on a tape of this guy’s music, and she starts to boogie around her prim, tidy office. It’s an ebullient solo number enhanced by the fact that Eilber spent years as a professional dancer before breaking into the movies.

There’s buoyancy and an energy in these early scenes that is thoroughly infectious. Not only are the events amusing and romantic, but you actually get the sense these people had fun making this movie. That’s the kind of thing that is very tough to fake.

Eilber is quite good, and Spingfield has a comfortable, natural screen presence. He seems especially at ease playing comedy, which is useful, since there’s a rowdy kind of fun that sparks the first half of the film.

Director Larry Peerce, who has always been an actor’s director, may have helped provide the congenial atmosphere. But he lets the movie slip into a slow pace during the last hour or so; people sit around and talk about whether they’re ready to commit to a relationship, or settle down, or find themselves. That may be fine in another movie, but it’s jarring here.

Someone’s taken a pair of scissors to this last hour. Every once in a while a conversation will begin that you know should go on for a little longer; then an abrupt cut, and on to the next scene. Apparently, the more serious material was considered too heavy for the kind of audience the film will probably attract. That may be true. I just wish we had stayed in that first movie, which was starting to look like a bona fide sleeper.

First published in the Herald, April 7, 1984

I have never heard of anyone else who shared my enthusiasm for the opening sequences of this movie, nor have I lost sleep over the matter. But there it is. Springfield had his moment as a pretty-boy music idol, and “Jessie’s Girl” has worked its way into enough retro soundtracks to earn its place as a bad-good classic. Janet Eilber was indeed a dancer and is now the Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Company, which is not something you’d ordinarily predict for the leading lady of a picture like this. Patti Hansen also has a good role in this movie, her last film credit (she cast her lot with marriage to Keith Richards, which must have resulted in at least as interesting a life as movie stardom would have brought her). For someone with such a strange filmography, Larry Peerce worked as steadily in the business as any director has a right to (Goodbye, Columbus; Two-Minute Warning; “Batman” episodes; and many a TV-movie) and must have a story to tell.

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2 Responses to Hard to Hold

  1. Donald Sears says:

    The 80’s children are the children of the dammed ?
    I think not….I was there…you obviously were not born yet…but have
    an opinion about a decade you did not experience.

    Your Millennium generation IS the children damned
    …..to
    no freedom, no fun, less jobs for college grads, in debt college grads, your whole life policed…including your diet, no after school programs, no music class, no gym, metal detectors in schools, no
    holidays or birthdays celebrated in schools or offices, when you get
    a job you have 12 hour work days …multitask….for less pay than the work they expect, no job security, no retirement, no pension….

    soon no social security, dirtier environment, mass extinction of wild animals, electronics that control your entire life,
    strapped to all your body parts so your boss can always find you…

    no sick days allowed….no vacations….just “stay-cations”.
    STRESS !!!! outsourcing , Republican = Tea Party….NOT REAL
    Republican…that became extinct with Reagan.

    Today GOP Tea Party is a bunch of right wing extremists that care more about taking away your civil rights than living in the free world called Democracy or keeping world powers from blowing us up.

    Now….for your eighties education….from me, a retired journalist/ entertainment manager….and movie extra…my brother is in this movie..”Hard To Hold” as a movie extra….
    I was in multiple others…including “Sidekicks”.

    Anyway…..you need to watch a historic movie called “Big Miracle”

    With Drew Barrymore , made recently .,,,,about Wilma, Fred and Bam, Bam….blue whales trapped in the ice that change the world.

    It is a true story that took place in Barrow , Alaska in 1988.
    This movie sticks to the historical facts and events…as well
    as portrays actual people who all were present to coach the actors
    about themselves and life in the real 1980’s ….not 80’s as portrayed in today’s myth.
    This was the way Reagan really was….as well as the Russians during “The Cold War”, the environmentalists, oil industry, native Alaskan Indians….and the media…..
    Republicans, Russians, whale killers, whale savers, Democrats,
    world leaders…..
    They all opposed each other ….but unlike today….they were
    all willing to work for a better good…..to set aside differences to
    save the whales from certain death.

    That is the way people were then….they still cared….about each other , the world and consequences of their actions….
    unlike today where no one cares about anything .

    also , maybe women did not have as many work options as today but they sure were alot more respected….and never called biatch,
    hoe, ext……and men treated you like a classy lady…..not like dirt.

    • roberthorton says:

      “The children of the damned” refers of course to the movies made during the 1980s, not to people who were children then. It is a humorous reference to my ambivalent feelings about the films of that decade, hundreds of which I reviewed at the time.

      I was born in 1958, and as far as I can tell the Millennials have a lot more on the ball than my generation did, and more challenges. I have seen “Big Miracle,” like it, and am in favor of people putting aside differences to work together.

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