As we head further along the 30-year nostalgia train that is 1984, the “rock star who stars in a movie that has the same title as his current album” tributes will be saved for Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ – which, if you’ve watched ‘Purple Rain’ lately, you’re kidding yourself if you think it at all holds up (though, the rock club scenes are pretty great); but it’s certainly an interesting film. Deservedly overlooked (well, except here, I suppose) will be the other film that falls into that esoteric category … Rick Springfield’s ‘Hard to Hold.’
First, let’s get this out of the way early: The most interesting thing to come out of ‘Hard to Hold,’ is that its corresponding album of the same name produced a song titled "Bop ‘Til You Drop," and that the video for that song was directed by David Fincher.
Honestly, I entered this particular project thinking ‘Hard to Hold’ would elicit some sort of deep-seated feelings of nostalgia that I never knew I possessed for ‘Hard to Hold.’ You see, before this week, I had seen ‘Hard to Hold’ exactly one time.
My parents were somewhat late to the VCR revolution – not actually buying their first VCR until early 1985. And, of course, it was a Betamax machine. On the way home from Montgomery Ward (yes, I’m serious; my parents bought their first VCR at Montgomery Ward) we stopped off at a video rental store in the small Missouri town that we lived in at the time, and they let me pick our first video rental. For reasons I will never be able to explain, I chose ‘Hard to Hold.’ Until this week, the only thing I remembered about ‘Hard to Hold’ was that it showed Rick Springfield’s naked butt – as a 10-year-old child, it wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences watching my parents’ reaction as Rick Springfield pranced around naked, especially knowing that this was my choice.
‘Hard to Hold’ is really awful. Its only real purpose serves as a warning to pop stars of what can happen if they become too indulgent. The film opens with Jamie Roberts (Springfield) in San Francisco, hopping back onstage for a one-song encore to what we are led to believe was just a dynamite concert. (Jamie Roberts' rock star attire consists of a sensible vest with no shirt underneath.) After the show, Jamie gets locked out of his dressing room wearing only a bath towel – a towel that he eventually removes for no reason other than so my parents and my 10-year-old eyes could see his naked butt.
Eventually, Jamie borrows a member of his crew’s Camaro, then promptly crashes that Camaro into a car driven by Diana (Janet Eilber). As it turns out, Diana is smitten by the naked rock star -- and even laughs and laughs as Jamie commits a crime by leaving the scene of an accident. (Jamie, at least, has the courtesy to tell Diana that she’s “beautiful” before he left the scene of an accident that he caused.)
Eventually, the two meet again, they sleep together, then when Diana tells Jamie that he can’t spend the night at her house, he throws a rock through her bedroom window.
To its credit, ‘Hard to Hold’ does consist of some of the most unintentionally hilarious, seriously dramatic lines of dialogue, with gems like: “My ass is on the line.” “Your ass is out of line!”; “Everybody thinks it’s about the tits and champagne”; and “Come on, give him a tumble.” The biggest laugh comes after Diana’s father is granted an early retirement from his job because of some undisclosed medical condition. He’s got big plans! He’s a sailor! He’s going to use all of his new free time to sail! Of course, the next time we see him, he’s laying on the floor dead.
There’s also a side story about a disruptive band member named Nicky, which is only notable because Nicky is played by Keith Richards' then and current wife, Patti Hansen.
And, when do we know that Diana has finally fallen for Jamie? It’s when Diana, at home, starts playing Jamie’s latest record, then starts dancing around her house like a mad-woman – eventually being caught by her roommate, who responds by calling Diana a “slut.” (And then they both laugh.)
(As an aside, this entire movie is filled with Rick Springfield songs. Okay, sure, maybe that’s not a huge surprise, but at least ‘Purple Rain’ also includes some songs by The Time. It actually gets to the point of hilarity that when anyone is driving a car, of course a Rick Springfield song is playing on the radio.)
The ending of the film consists of Jamie playing one final concert – where he unleashes his new anthem, "Love Somebody" (which actually did become a top 10 single on the Billboard charts), before darting off to the airport to try and stop Diana from leaving the country.
Are you tired of drawn out airport love scenes? Boy, ‘Hard to Hold’ is for you. Jamie finds Diana with absolutely no problem. Jamie and Diana greet each other with one sentence, the two make out, and then Jamie slaps Diana on the ass and yells, “Woo,” as the end credits roll with replayed highlights from the movie that you just watched.
It’s not that there is no longer any crossover between rock stars trying to act in movies, but today it seems more along the lines of promotional “documentaries” than having a rock star (even an actor-turned-rock star like Springfield) actually play a rock star in a movie. The trend picked up steam again after the good reviews for Eminem in ‘8 Mile,’ but then seemed to fall out of favor by the time 50 Cent’s (and Jim Sheridan’s) ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was released. But, at least that movie tried. ‘Hard to Hold’ was nothing more than a promotional video designed to make Rick Springfield look “cool" and show us his naked butt.
The video for the most successful song from this movie, "Love Somebody," is based around Rick Springfield trying to edit together the movie. (The video even begins with Springfield entering a room labeled “Hard to Hold Editing.”)
I like to think this is true. I like to think that Rick Springfield was actually sitting in the editing bay, night after night, desperately trying to edit this movie together while he sang the lyrics from "Love Somebody." It would certainly explain a lot.
Mike Ryan is senior editor for ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.