The Flamingo Kid (1984) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Set in Brooklyn, 1963, Jeffrey Willis has just finished high school and isn't quite sure what the future holds. His parents expect him to go to college but he is starting to find his close-knit family stifling. He gets a summer job at the Flamingo beach club where he meets Phil Brody, a successful car dealer who fills Jeffrey's head with ideas about how to make his fortune. Phil is everything Jeffrey would like to be - popular, rich and the best gin rummy player the club has ever seen. Jeffrey's coming of age includes a romance with the very pretty Carla Samson, but the shine on Phil Brody's philosophy of life wears off when he uncovers a significant flaw in his character.

  • Brooklyn, 1963. Jeffrey feels boxed in; in his home, in his life, in his dreams. At the Flamingo beach club his eyes are opened to a world filled with what he sees as beautiful people and perfect lives. He turns his back on his family in pursuit of easy street. Jeffrey falls in love with pretty beach girl Carla, and appears to be on his way to a cushy job selling sports cars for the slick Mr. Brody. It all begins to fall apart when Jeffrey suspects that Mr. Brody misled him. Jeffrey must finally choose between his dreams and honor. He returns to his family, which he now sees not as a box, but as a foundation.

  • A recent high school graduate unsure of his future gets a summer job at the Flamingo beach club, and meets the charismatic Phil Brody.

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The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In the summer of 1963, Jeffrey Willis (Matt Dillon) joins some friends for a day of playing Gin rummy at the El Flamingo Club, a private beach resort in Rockaway, Brooklyn. There, he meets the girl of his dreams Carla Sampson (Janet Jones). After the Gin game and being told of the club's strict policy regarding guests, Jeffrey is upset, but not for long, since he immediately landed a job as a car valet and eventually, cabana steward. Jeffrey is a kid from a middle class Brooklyn family and his father (Hector Elizondo) does not approve of him working at the private club.

    During his first day working there, Jeffrey meets his hero and mentor at the resort is the reigning Gin rummy card game champ, Phil Brody (Richard Crenna). Jeffrey, a winning Gin Rummy player himself, and his friends, admire Brody and how his wins at the Gin rummy table make him seem "psychic," knowing which cards to give up. Brody also takes a liking to Jeffrey, eventually showing him his car business, and gives him hopes that car sales are where he belongs as a career.

    Jeffrey gets further immersed in the "easy buck," defying his father's guidance. During dinner, Jeffrey notably says he "will not be needing college" and plans to pursue being a car salesman instead. That evening, Jeffrey and his co-workers at The Flamingo also venture to Yonkers Raceway together, risking cash on a horse tip but come up short when the trotter breaks stride.

    Eventually, Jeffrey leaves home to pursue the sales job. However, Brody, angry that Jeffrey disturbed him during a dance class, reveals to Jeffrey that the job opening at the car dealership is for a stock boy, not as a salesman as Jeffrey had been led to believe was his when he asked for it. Brody encourages Jeffrey to take the stock boy position so he can work his way up. Jeffrey becomes shocked at his mentor's actions and reconsiders college.

    In the meantime, after spending some romantic time with Carla on the sides throughout the film, she tells Jeffrey that she will be leaving town to attend college out of state. Jeffrey is sad to see her leave, but this inspires him to make a change as he bids her goodbye.

    Near summer's end on the final week before Labor Day, Jeffrey observes that a regular onlooker, "Big Sid", is feeding signals to Brody, the true cause of Brody's winning ways. When Big Sid and a member of the gin team playing against Brody's team are overcome by the heat, Jeffrey fills in, opposing Brody, and seeking to help win back the unfair profits Brody won from his friends over the course of the summer. Jeffrey and his team eventually win back what was unfairly lost, including a good profit besides. Realizing the mistakes he made in rejecting his father's good advice, Jeffrey makes up with his father in a touching final scene at Larry's Fish House ("Any Fish You Wish"), where his family is dining and joins them for dinner.

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