Pump up the Volume, a film from 1990, stars Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis. It tells the story of a teenage boy living a double life. On one hand, he is a model student attending high school in the suburban desert of Arizona. By night, he is a raunchy pirate radio disc jockey, known as Happy Harry Hard-on, talking hard and stealing the air – as in radio air.
Each and every night he goes live to all those that can hear him, and many can and do hear him. His message about a society gone wrong and a corrupt high school reaches many and angers many more. Soon his broadcasts receive national attention, even drawing notice from the FCC. This follows a few unfortunate incidents that occur among his teenage listeners, for which Harry gets the blame. Even with the FCC breathing down his neck, Harry continues on to make sure his message is delivered.
This movie may have been released in 1990, but its message still rings true in today’s society. Harry is honest with his views of society and this is commendable. He speaks to the confusion and worry many teenagers in the world feel, but in my opinion this confusion and worry isn’t just felt by those attending high school, but by many adults as well. There is so much turmoil in our time, and many are unsure of what will happen next.
Harry shows us how one voice can move many. When his popularity grows, it surprises him and he cannot handle it. He is just one teenage boy named Mark. A boy who is shy, speaking to no one at school and spending most of his days in solitude. His alter ego provides him the outlet to say the things he wouldn’t normally say.
Samantha Mathis plays Nora. She is the girl who searches him out, getting to know both the shy teenager, and the raunchy Harry, once she finds out who he is. By the end of the film, she is assisting him in getting his message out. This movie introduced us to the actress who went on to star in many more movies including The Thing Called Love and American Psycho.
For ninety-five minutes this movie is in your face. We’re taken from Harry’s broadcasts in his basement to the rooms of his listeners as they sit and listen every night. This movie tells their stories as well, and we have a cross-section of a few popular teen stereotypes represented: the popular Miss Perfect school girl who isn’t so perfect, the shy geeky teenage boy who feels his only solution is to end his life, to name a few.
Pump up the Volume has always been one of my favorite movies. I was in my teens when it first came out and its message struck a chord with me then. It still strikes a chord with me now – watching the DVD reminded me why.
It’s honest and out there. The acting is right on. Christian Slater nails the role of teenager with a double life perfectly. His co-star Samantha Mathis does the same. If you have never seen this movie or it’s been awhile, I highly recommend it. Just a bit of a warning, this movie is not for the children. The language is quite coarse.
For more reviews by Regina, including reviews on books, music, movies and television shows, visit her review blog found at One Couch Critic. Her rambles on life and writing can be found on her daily blog, One Writer’s Rambles.
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