Film Review: An Affair of the Heart

This documentary about an imperishable pop icon of the 1980s, although not the deepest, is every bit as irresistibly likeable as its subject.

You hear that distinctive, nervously thrumming guitar intro, and already know you have no choice but to succumb to “Jessie’s Girl,” that cheesy ’80s song which also happens to be one of the most irresistible pop records ever made. The man responsible for it, Rick Springfield, is front and center in An Affair of the Heart, which answers the question: “Whatever happened to him?”

Actually, he’s been very much around, constantly performing and touring and the adored object of a fan base that could, without exaggeration, be described as obsessive. Sylvia Caminer’s film focuses on many of the Australian’s admirers, most of them female and white, with celeb cameos by similar former youth icons Linda Blair and Corey Feldman. There’s a woman who went through a debilitating illness as a girl who found solace and the will to live through his music, a teenager whose father’s love of Springfield inspired him to play himself (eventually winding up onstage with the star), and Kate Dennis, a minister from North Carolina who clucks over that raunchy rock ’n’ roll lifestyle while still lovin’ that man. And then there are the two suburban housewives who, on the average of once a month, pick up and leave their more than forbearing husbands and kids to go jaunting off to see Springfield, especially on his fan-centric “Rick and Friends” annual cruise.

“Arrested development” might be an accurate description of these two, as well as many others who first became conscious of Springfield when he was the 1980s’ ultimate pop star, having both hit records and a regular gig on the soap opera “General Hospital” as Dr. Noah Drake. And then, essentially, there were his slim, male-model looks, which placed him in a direct, honorable line of non-threatening teen idols from Fabian to Davy Jones to Bobby Sherman to David Cassidy to the Bieb himself.

However, like Justin Bieber, Springfield is an able composer and musician and proves himself more than just a pretty face with some serious chops on display here. His other songs besides “Jessie’s Girl” are definitely more than decent. Now 61, he comes across as a generous performer and likeable, down-to-earth guy, who confesses to being “a dick” in his successful youth and now is fully cognizant of the importance of being nice to fans. One would have liked to learn more about those earlier years and especially about Barbara, his wife of some 30 years, who pops up late in the film, cheering him along with the worshipful. Indeed, her story would almost seem to be more interesting than his, having to put up with so much (and, yes, I am thinking about those desperate housewives). Another question that arises concerns the exact lyric of “Jessie’s Girl.” I’d always assumed that it was “I wanna tell her that I love her, but the point is probably moot,” but the lyrics shown onscreen have it as “mute.” Really?