Flamingo Kid, The (1984)

Flamingo Kid, The (1984)

“You know, he’s really cute and everything — but did you have to invite him to dinner?”

A working-class teenager (Matt Dillon) headed for college takes a summer job as a “cabana boy” at a private beach club in Long Island, where he meets a wealthy car salesman (Richard Crenna) who takes him under his wing and teaches him how to move along quickly in life — but Dillon’s father (Hector Elizondo) is concerned about Dillon giving up his longer-term goals.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Class Relations
  • Coming of Age
  • Father and Child
  • Jessica Walter Films
  • Social Climbers

Garry Marshall directed this nostalgic throwback to the early 1960s, featuring Matt Damon in his next lead role after starring in three adaptations of S.E. Hinton novels: Tex (1982) (not listed in GFTFF), The Outsiders (1983), and Rumble Fish (1983). Dillon is well-cast here as a hard-working, aspirational young man who’s instantly lured in by the carefree lifestyle of the Other Half:

… and smitten with a friendly, beautiful blonde (Janet Jones) from California:

What’s most refreshing about the screenplay (written by Neal Marshall — apparently no relation to the director) is how it presents Dillon as suitably ambitious but not callous; when telling his father about his decision to work at the Flamingo Club rather than as an “office boy” for a client of his father’s, he says, “Oh come on, Dad, let’s face it — they only hired me because you fix their plumbing. They don’t need me! I did this on my own.”

In that one line, we understand that Dillon isn’t disparaging of his dad’s working-class profession, but simply eager to test out his own mettle and see where he gets. Throughout his summer adventures, Dillon stays curious and excited yet reasonably grounded in good sense. Although he’s lured in by the promise of “easy” money:

… the instant he sees a hint of foul play, he begins to understand that nothing in life is truly easy. Indeed, his interactions with a fellow college-bound “cabana boy” named Fortune (Leon Robinson), who has a scholarship to Notre Dame but is hoping to save up money for his room and board:

… is a steady reminder of how Dillon should really focus on his work at the Flamingo Club as a lucrative stop along his ultimate path, rather than a destination. Watch for Jessica Walter in a perfectly cast role as Crenna’s over-tanned, socially conscious wife:

… and John Turturro in one of his first screen appearances (albeit super-brief) as a fellow gambler at the horce races (seen here talking with Fisher Stevens):

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Matt Dillon as Jeffrey Willis
  • Richard Crenna as Phil Brody
  • Hector Elizondo as Arthur Willis
  • Fine production design

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look.


One thought on “Flamingo Kid, The (1984)

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    A mild, popcorn comedy with good intentions (in terms of the overall moral). The ‘comedy’ is almost non-existent unless you go in for average tv-level humor (director Marshall largely worked in tv).

    There’s a heavy dose of oldies pop tunes to make viewers feel nostalgic.

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