Hard to Handle

Hard To Hold Directed by Larry Peerce At the Sack Charles

THERE WAS NO REASON to go on and show the movie. The screen could have been the campfire, the screaming pre-pubescent bubble gum crowd a Browine troop, and the popcorn roasting chestnuts over an open fire. Before the screening began last Thursday at the Sack Charles, a local dee-jay stood up front and called out the ticket numbers of the proud winners of a giant Rick Springfield poster. I looked at my ticket stub blandly What would my roommate say?

Minutes later, Jamie (Rick Springfield), fleeing his bathroom, races across the screen, a company of excited fans not far behind. Outside his bathroom, a disgruntled song writer swings a broken wine bottle threateningly at Jamie's band, forcing him to flee towel-clad into the auditorium. Borrowing a pair of potato-sack fashioned pants from his assistant, Jame races off, his hair somehow blow-dried along the way until evidently traumatized by the ordeal of screaming fans clawing at his skin-tight clothes on stage and the real goods afterwards, he loses control of his car, totaling a vegetable stand and literally running into Liner Eilber.

With his tight sack pants barely falling off in one of perhaps two last opportunities to show the onetime Dr. Noah Drake of General Hospital with his pants down, he casually apologizes and offers to pay for everything. "Insurance," he says, "my agent handles that," as he races off with the vegetable stand hooked alongside as an Italian grocer curses him out. Jamie, cool as ever, mouths. "You're beautiful."

For the next 80 or so minutes Hard To Hold goes from concert flick to romantic comedy to a certain affected serious drama. Springfield's salivating pre-pubescent fans are left disappointed and the rest of us confused or bored. Not content to become just another extended music video, Hard To Hold has to tell us something. "It's rough being a star," Springfield says. "Everybody thinks it's just tits and champagne.'

For one thing, girls like Janet don't seem to realize that Jamie Rogers. You see, she's hard to get. Unimpressed with the blue eyes that send the training-bra set into hysterics, she sends back the requisite two dozen roses and the gift-wrapped new car. When he tracks her down to her favorite restaurant, she snubs him and his bubbly once again. "I don't know your music," she says. "It's bubble gum." Her taste: Tony Bennett.

And Tony Bennett, or a close facsimile, Springfield delivers to her house that night. With a PG degree of details, the next morning Springfield finds himself familiarly unclothed but unfamiliarly rejected as Janet shows him out. "I think," she says, "it's best if we leave it at this." "We made love last night," he objects. "We had sex," she says. Bill Safire watch out.

BUT WITH HALF THE MOVIE to go, she finds herself torn between her love--punctuated with every token of affection peculiar to the PG genre--and her amorphous fear of having a relationship with a rock star. With his lime waiting for their second date, she flips. "Doesn't it bother you drawing attention to yourself like this?"

As inexplicable as her love for Springfield is, she periodically reminds him of his awful way of life. Without a single movement along the highway, she knows, as we all must now know, the tragedy of a rock star's existence. "How can you call a hotel home?" she asks.

Like the recent Eddie and the Cruisers, Hard To Hold tries to convey the difficulties of the road life but only through casual rhetoric. The plot becomes more like a pick up line at each turn--you know, we really have a lot in common, she tells Springfield about her longshoreman father. "My father's an orthodontist," he says. "Hooray for the working class."

If we are to believe Hard To Hold. Jamie's worst fear is of constantly being chased by hundreds of surging fans up and down the hills of San Francisco.

INSTEAD OF DEVELOPING any relationships, Hard To Hold approaches its plot as Springfield approaches his songs: taking a simple idea, dressing it up, and repeating it again and again. Evidently tired of kissing, Springfield assures his love, "I really, really, really care for you." Put it to a beat and tape the video, and Kasey Kason could call it Top 40 by next Sunday.

To complicate the socio-cultural strains, Springfield wrestles with the collapse of his long time relationship with his songwriter. Keeping her well outside his bedroom door, he rets that their songs no longer have the meaning they did when "we just worked for beer money." At last, the confrontation comes as Springfield smashes his guitar to bits. "We played a lot of good songs with that thing," she says, Symbolism noted.

To his credit, Director Larry Peerce sets Hard To Hold against the colorful background of San Francisco, but the players have all the depth of the postcards that could show us the same sites for about $4 less. As a comedy, Hard To Hold has its moments: more smiles than belly-busting hysterics of the successful and more entertaining Splash or Arthur, With only two concert scenes, it fails as an extended video for all but the most committed pop-drivel addicts.

As the credits roll down the screen, no one would call for the encore the screen couldn't honor. Though dedicated fans still recovering from Springfield's exit as General Hospital's Noah Drake may leave fleetingly satisfied, not even a concert t-shirt could keep Hard to Hold from being unsatisfactorily easy to leave.