"Summer Lovers," an R-rated fantasy of nudity and initiation from the director of "The Blue Lagoon," does not quite live up to its word-of-mouth reputation as a movie that is so bad it's good. It comes close, but lacks the necessary flair.
The story begins with the arrival in the Greek islands of two Americans of legal age. They are to spend the summer in a lovely villa overlooking the Aegean, and quickly get down to the business of preconsummating their probable marriage.
Blond, willowy, innocent, anxious-to-please Cathy Featherstone, portrayed by newcomer Daryl Hannah, has brought a text on lovemaking technique, and commences to melt a wax candle on her boyfriend's chest -- quite according to instructions. Alas, her friend Michael (Peter Gallagher) is put off. He has already begun to wonder privately what depths or heights of "spontaneity" they are both missing.
Meanwhile, down at the nude beach, Michael is mysteriously attracted to Lina, a mysterious young woman who speaks Greek and will tell him nothing of her past -- not even what she ate for lunch. Unlike Cathy, she wears eye makeup and is not afraid of waiters. The mysterious attraction overwhelms him, and they become a twosome.
Cathy catches on soon enough, but when she confronts Lina, they mysteriously become fast friends. This cheers Michael up too, and soon Lina moves in and the two twosome merges into a threesome.
For a while, they are happy -- Michael especially, and perhaps not so mysteriously. The new arrangement eases housekeeping tasks, adds a third dimension to conversation and makes interesting waves in the waterbed. It is slightly harder to get a table in a restaurant, but otherwise a net improvement is acknowledged by all three.
Following a night of newfound spontaneity that revolves on the theme of olive oil, the three are surprised by a visit from Mrs. Featherstone, Cathy's mother, who has slipped unannounced off a cruise ship to say hi. She is amazed, shocked, concerned and played by Barbara Rush.
In addition to "The Blue Lagoon," Randal Kleiser also directed "Grease." In this, his screenwriting debut, he has provided a remarkably predictable and unengaging story punctuated by dialogue on the order of "Oh, wow" and "This place really turns me on."
His idea was to have the Greek islands of his location -- Santorini, Crete, Mykonos and Delos among them -- seem to teem with unclothed young people bicycling, strolling, smooching, swimming and so on. They do teem, but only in the foreground. In the background the streets are empty, which is disconcerting.
Kleiser tends not only to telegraph his punches but also to read his own message aloud. In one scene, Cathy and Lina walk away from Michael in opposite directions. What this signifies is that the characters are suddenly going their separate ways. A moment later Michael observes, "When you two went in opposite directions a moment ago. . . ."
The three young people who are the featured performers here are dramatically adequate and anatomically correct.
Peter Gallagher was last seen as Cesare in "The Idol Maker," a role based on that of the former pop star Fabian. He has a dewy-eyed, full-lipped look, which may indeed appeal to some, but the part might have been better served by a somewhat more impertinent, tuned-in presence, such as William Katt's in Carrie."
Daryl Hannah, said to be a philosophy major at USC, brings to her role, in addition to the prerequisite nudity, a cleverly changeable face (an effect heightened by the unmatched lighting effects from scene to scene). As an actress she is essentially a pretty beginner, but occasionally a giggly spirit appears of which more should be sen.
Valerie Quennessen, said to be an established French actress, plays Lina but does not seem to be having much fun. This may denote an intelligence that will serve her well later on.