I'm not sure how they assembled this cast of relative unknowns, but wow. The dialogue is believable, the way the teens interact with each other feels authentic, and the shots of the Chicago area provide a stunning time capsule of late 70s-early 80s life. None of the actors look like they were selected by casting agents, and none of the outfits look like they were designed for the film. Every scene makes you feel like you are experiencing 1980 as it was. The classical score sets such a peaceful tone without taking away from the visuals and is never used inappropriately. I love how the most intense scenes in the film feature no music. Chris Makepeace had a stunningly unassuming screen presence; it’s a shame his career didn’t take off. Matt Dillon is perfect as the feared school bully, oozing creepiness out of every pore. Future two-time Oscar nominee Joan Cusack steals almost every scene she’s in while making her film debut, and her scenes are both hilarious and heartbreaking (the way the camera lingers on her face in the diner after Moody pretends to ask her on a date). Perhaps most impressive is Adam Baldwin, as the traumatized student who is (wrongly) the most feared student in the school based on his past. If you’ve only seen Baldwin in features Full Metal Jacket, Cohen and Tate (where he plays cocky, confident, abrasive characters) you will be stunned at the range he shows in this film. I’m not a fan of how the Ruth Gordon subplot fits into the film, but we still get both Gordon and John Houseman in the film so I don’t want to nitpick too badly about that. Just a wonderful film full of natural performances and a time capsule of Chicago in 1980.