Randal Kleiser’s Summer Lovers is just further proof that characters don’t have to be interesting for movies to be made about them as long as they’re white, young, and beautiful. Take Michael Pappas (Peter Gallagher) and Cathy Featherstone (Daryl Hannah), a young American couple who travel to the Greek island of Oia for the summer. We know nothing about them other than that they’ve known each other for ten years, have been dating for five, and that Cathy likes photography. They cavort in the mélange of equally young, equally beautiful American and European tourists infesting the beaches before returning to their expensive villa for a night of lovemaking. Alone, they talk of nothing consequential because they have nothing of consequence to discuss.
Soon they strip naked, sunbathe, and skinny-dip. The camera lovingly holds on Cathy’s breasts, but can never seem to get a good look at Michael’s penis. Cathy bends over backwards to please him emotionally and satisfy him sexually, but Michael still strays, beginning an affair with a gorgeous Frenchwoman named Lina Broussard (Valerie Quennessen) he meets one afternoon while exploring beachside caves. Cathy’s reaction when Michael comes clean about his infidelity? To go and get it out of his system. Naturally, Cathy and Lina later become friends and begin a ménage à trois with Michael.
Fresh off the success of his movies Grease (1978) and The Blue Lagoon (1980), Kleiser wrote and directed Summer Lovers—recently released on Blu-ray by Twilight Time. A trite meditation on youthful passion, one can’t help but get the distinct impression that the film was merely wish-fulfillment (or at the very least a good excuse to get a film studio to finance a prolonged vacation to Greece). Two gorgeous, nubile women fall in love with a shiftless young man with the presence and personality of drywall and, at best, mediocre attractiveness. Lina is an archeologist investigating local ruins, yet she somehow manages to afford a luxurious villa on her meager salary. The only unattractive people on the island are the elderly locals. There isn’t a potbelly, muffin-top, or unseemly physical specimen to be found. It all reeks of puerile fantasy. Even worse: it isn’t a very compelling one. The characters aren’t interesting or fully developed (and that is not an innuendo) like the beach-hopping teens of Jacques Rozier’s Adieu Phillippine (1962), an adolescent ménage à trois film done right. He doesn’t use the film to explore moral quandaries or philosophical dilemmas like any number of Éric Rohmer’s works featuring alluring, half-naked twentysomethings sprawled out in the sand. It’s sappy romantic melodrama for its own sake.