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Smooth Talk (1985)

A free-spirited 15-year-old girl flirts with a dangerous stranger in the Northern California suburbs and must prepare herself for the frightening and traumatic consequences.


Joyce Chopra


Joyce Carol Oates (story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been"), Tom Cole (screenplay)

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2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Treat Williams ... Arnold Friend
Laura Dern ... Connie
Mary Kay Place ... Katherine
Margaret Welsh ... Laura
Sara Inglis Sara Inglis ... Jill (as Sarah Inglis)
Levon Helm ... Harry
Elizabeth Berridge ... June
Geoff Hoyle Geoff Hoyle ... Ellie
William Ragsdale ... Jeff
David Berridge David Berridge ... Eddie
Cab Covay Cab Covay ... Pick-up Driver
Michael French Michael French ... Stan
Joy Carlin Joy Carlin ... Laura's Mother
Mark McKay Mark McKay ... Bobby King
Carl Mueller Carl Mueller ... Mall Boy


Free-spirited fifteen-year-old Connie Wyatt may be too young to drive, but she's already driving the boys crazy. Her suspicious mother wants to keep her safely at home, but Connie would rather while away the languid summer days hanging out with her friends and flirting with boys at the local burger stand. But when she flirts with a handsome and dangerous stranger named Arnold Friend, she must prepare herself for the frightening and traumatic consequences. Based on the short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates. Written by Eric Zuckerman <zuckermn@humans-only.slip.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

17 November 1985 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bedrohliches Geflüster See more »

Filming Locations:

Santa Rosa, California, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$16,785, 17 November 1985, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$16,785, 17 November 1985
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The film is actually based on the short story by Joyce Carol Oates titled, "Where are you going, Where have you been?". It's often hailed as a literary masterpiece due to the many motifs and insightful views on modern culture. See more »


When the girls are looking across the street at Franks drive-in we see the gold Pontiac already in the lot, easy to pick out due to the left brake light being out. Then we hear the car coming down the road and see it turn into the parking lot, also sporting the non working light. See more »


Katherine: I look at you. I look right in your eyes... and all I see are a bunch of trashy daydreams.
See more »

Alternate Versions

PBS edited 2 minutes from this film for its 1987 network television premiere. See more »


Featured in Siskel & Ebert: Robert Redford (1992) See more »


You Don't Want Me
Performed by Franke & The Knockouts (as Franke and the Knockouts)
See more »

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User Reviews

A Minor's Accident Waiting To Happen
24 June 2016 | by pzivojinovicSee all my reviews

Smooth Talk is one of the few films ever made whose climactic scene takes place on the borderline between reality and the imagination. That scene is done so beautifully by Dern and Treat Williams that one never forgets it. But the whole movie is full of wonderful moments. For instance, after her first fight with her mother (and the sparks that fly between Dern and Mary Kay Place every time their eyes meet capture the hormones-versus-hormones explosiveness of adolescence versus middle age marvelously) Dern walks through a fruit orchard. This is Chopra's way of hinting to us that the Garden of Eden, the loss of innocence, lies behind the story. The parents are house-poor, having had enough money to buy the house three years ago but not to decorate it. The inside is a chaos of paint cans, ladders, strips of wallpaper. This mirrors the chaos inside the emotions of the developing girl.

There are some awkward scenes in this film version of the famous Joyce Carol Oates story, "Where are you going? Where have you been?", mainly because the original short story was set in the 1950's and the film is set in the 1980's thus the James Dean posters in Connie's room, the fact that Arnold Friend (Treat Williams) is a James Dean look-a-like who drives a muscle car, and that all the high school kids hang out at the local drive-in seem out of place in the 1980's. And yet, even with the anachronisms, as an evocation of a certain time of life it still works. Anyways, the film tells of young fifteen year old Connie who discovers herself at a local burger place. Well, I guess that is over simplifying it a bit. She lives in the shadow of her older, perfect sister and she suffers under the sharp eye of her defeated mother. She feels hated and alone and so this moves her to act out, seeking attention from boys who find her attractive and deem her rather easy. The film moves around at an almost stagnant pace for a while, allowing us to see Connie in various compromising situations without really letting anything happen that sustains our interest. Then all of a sudden this guy who we have seen briefly throughout the film makes his advancements to Connie in a rather strange way and we are supposed to be drawn into her ultimate decision.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10.

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