August 30, 1982 12:00 PM

You’ve seen it all before. Soldier in training falls for girl. She wants marriage, he doesn’t. Result: heavy combat. An Officer and a Gentleman is a 1980s version that doesn’t tamper much with the formula, but it does revitalize it, thanks to the erotic teamwork of Richard Gere and Debra Winger. Gere, usually an actor of catatonic drabness (Yanks, American Gigolo), delivers his first passionate screen performance. He plays the son of a whoring sailor (his mother is a suicide), a social climber who sees 13 weeks of agonizing training at Washington State’s Port Rainier Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School as his way to self-esteem and fortune. Winger, realizing her Urban Cowboy promise, is a “Puget Deb”—one of the local mill girls who hang out around the Puget Sound base hoping to hook an upwardly mobile meal ticket. The sexual grappling of Gere and Winger is realistically graphic, but director Taylor Hackford and screenwriter Douglas Day Stewart also wisely concentrate on subtle changes in Gere’s character under the prodding of Lou Gossett Jr., who plays a nail-hard drill instructor. Gossett, who was Fiddler on TV’s Roots, is one of those rare actors who can make you feel the emotion that’s making him sweat. His performance is Oscar caliber. But Gere and Winger also earn the thanks of film lovers for reviving the love story in a movie era increasingly dominated by technology and special effects. They have taken a Silly Putty plot and molded it into a form that shows flair, intelligence and heart. (R)

You May Like