Sunday, September 12, 2010

Valley Girl (1983)

Energetic, breezy '80s teen romance about two L.A. high schoolers, one a Hollywood rebel, the other a prospective prom queen from the San Fernando Valley, who fall in love despite their social backgrounds. The focus is on the titular valley girl, Julie (Deborah Foreman), as she and her friends giggle, dance, and shop their way through life in their insular, and totally super popular, clique. She decides she's sick of her "hunk" boyfriend, and dumps him, leaving room for Nicolas Cage's wild Randy to instantly fall in love with her at a party. They tiptoe around their mutual attraction for a little bit, before beginning a tenuous, but warm and passionate romance. They both have clear, distinct personalities outside of their relationship, but when they are together, they are rendered shy, open, and endearing; it is in these simple, innocent, nearly-wordless passages between them that the film truly clicks. They are helped by an ever-present soundtrack filled with early-'80s New Wave that, alongside the films heavy visual aesthetic of neons and flashing lights, gives the film a distinctive flavor despite its tired Romeo and Juliet structure. Another huge benefit of the film is the cast. While Deborah Foreman is not the most interesting or mature lead (to her credit, the role certainly has something to do with that), the rest of the players are pitch-perfect, and create a complete portrait of the environment of the film. Nicolas Cage is not as manic here as one would expect, and, with unglamorous facial features long-since remedied by surgery, is a sympathetic and likable romantic lead. Frederic Forrest, as Julie's former-hippie father, is absolutely hilarious, and unconventional; neither a louse nor a blowhard, he questions his own bizarre parenting methods while consistently making sure that his little girl is as happy as a bird, despite his misgivings. Elizabeth Daily and Michael Bowen are both memorable as one of Julie's ditzy friends and her brutish ex, respectively, who have a terrific, realistic scene together where they drunkenly and absent-mindedly cavort at a party. And the rest of the film is peppered with small roles that are given enough attention and character that they are just as memorable as the central love story.

Highly Recommended for fans of '80s teen movies or girly films a la Clueless (although this is infinitely more mature and endearing). This is a film that is confident, and insightful, in its presentation of young love, and has many qualities that make it one of the truly enjoyable teen movies of the era.

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