Thursday, May 3, 2012

Valley Girl (1983)

Directed by Martha Coolidge
Starring Nicolas Cage, Deborah Foreman, EG Daily
Rated R

"Is this movie in 3D?"
"No, but your face is."

In many ways, "valley girls" - affluent, material-minded, anti-intellectual young women from the San Fernando Valley, California area in late 70's and early 80's - were sociological pioneers. It wasn't actually popular to be vapid before then, and suddenly, "clueless" was cool. It didn't really last, and by the dawn of the 90's, smart girls with glasses were hip again, but the concept returned with a vengeance during the Bush presidency, and it still hasn't left us. What are reality stars like the Kardashians and the Jersey Shore kids, if not the direct descendents of valley girls? Dumb is not only back, it's a richly rewarded commodity. Seriously, walk around a mall sometime. Neon plastic sunglasses are back, and I'm pretty sure the idiot kids wearing them aren't even being ironic. Had Martha Coolidge known the horrors her film would spawn 25 years later, would she still have done it? Probably. After all, she thought she was remaking Romeo and Juliet with Valley Girl. And while that might seem absurd at first glance, let's face it: if William Shakespeare was writing screenplays in 1983, this is pretty much the kind of thing he'd come up with.

Curiously, the opening credits music is not Valley Girl by Frank and Moon Unit Zappa, but the comparatively limp fluff-pop “Girls Like Me” By Bonnie Hayes and the Wild Combo, which plays over sweeping shots of the valley in question, as well as a montage of Deborah Foreman and her pals shopping for day-glo clothes at the mall. Grumpy ol' Frank Zappa would not let the producers use "Valley Girl", and in fact sued them (unsuccessfully) for creating a film based (partly) on his satirical song.

Deborah Foreman (the perky blonde from My Chauffeur, Real Genius, April Fool's Day, Waxwork, etc) is Julie,  the leader of a quirky quartet of titual valley girls (including Streets of Fire's own EG Daily as plucky Loryn) who spend most of their time at the mall, accessorizing badly (Julie's got an American flag pin and a Woody Woodpecker brooch tacked to her sweatshirt in the opening scene!) and ruining boys' days. Like her long-time boyfriend Tommy, who gets unceremoniously dumped on the mall escalator.

The big news is that there's a big party tonight at Suzi's, and all the cool guys and hot girls are gonna be there, even teen rebel Randy (Nicolas Cage), the big hunk they all peeped on at the beach earlier that day, who normally doesn't like going to the valley, because he's from Hollwood, man. But what the hell, a party's a party. Julie and Stacey (Heidi Hollicker) get ready and before they head out, they have to endure a little awkward and fairly creepy chit-chat with Julie's parents, played by former 70's T&A queen Coleen Camp and perpetual pervy character actor Frederic Forrest, who sports a pretty amazing mustache."Oh Stacey, if I was twenty years younger, honey," says dad. Ick.

By the way, Coleen Camp is only 9 years older than Deborah Foreman, so they put some goofy glasses on her to age her a little.

So, the party happens. Seems like a wash-out. Lame music, bad dancing, and the guy Julie's into, Brad, is kind of a douche. All the guys wear their collars turned up. Some guys even have double-collars! Suzi, by the way, is played by Michelle Meyrink, AKA the mousy love interest in Val Kilmer's finest hour, 1985's Real Genius. Suzi only threw this stupid party to impress a big lug named Skip, but he seems to be more interested in her sexy red-headed stepmom, Beth (Lee Purcell).

Also, Loryn makes out with Tommy. Treacherous! Still, boobs! Director Coolidge said at least three sets of boobs were required by the studio so that teenage males would see the movie. And they have a point, because otherwise Valley Girl is kind of a rom-com.

Anyway, things perk up when Randy and his buddy Fred (Cameron Dye), show up with “punky” haircuts and “punky” attitudes. They're clearly outcasts in this preppy scene, and Randy's about to bail until he locks eyes with Julie. They start chatting and things are going pretty good until drunken asshole Tommy, who's finished banging Loryn, storms downstairs and socks Randy in the mouth. Then he and his pals toss Randy and Fred out the door, like the poor punk rock trash they are.

Rubbing his swollen cheek, Randy proclaims that Julie is “Truly dazzling”.
“Yeah,” Fred reluctantly agrees, “But she's not one of ours.”

They're from the wrong side of the tracks, man!

The fellas leave in defeat. But a few miles down the road, Randy has an epiphany. Nobody's gonna tell him what girls he can hit on!

Randy sneaks back in through the bathroom window and hides in the shower, waiting for Julie to show up. Meanwhile he peeps a guy feeling up his girlfriend, a group of friends getting high, and a bunch of people peeing. Then he watches silently when Julie comes in and stares forlonly at herself in the mirror. This isn't creepy at all, Randy.

Still, she seems pretty charmed by it.

She agrees to split this lame-o scene with him. They drive around downtown and Randy impresses Julie by knowing all the sketchy characters hanging around. Then he takes to see the Plimsouls and tells her they're way better than the “techno rock” she listens to. He also tells her she's a programmed robot. Yet, they still end up making out in his car until the sun comes up. Bad boys!

Some time later, Julie goes for her dirving test. WKRP's own Les Nessman is the instructor! Sadly, she gets so distracted talking about her date that she pays no attention to the task at hand and fails miserably. Also she says "trippindicular"!

Then there's a weird 70's porno-setup scene with Skip and Suzi's stepmom – he comes over to deliver the groceries, if you know what I mean- but it doesn't go anywhere.

It as this mid-point in the film where we are subjected to the obligatory falling-in-love montage, wherein Julie and Randy stroll the strip, looking at signs for donut shops and hamburger joints while “I'll Melt With You” by Modern English plays on the soundtrack. THE WHOLE SONG.

And then the girls all get together and go through Suzi's stepmom's lingerie drawer and then dance around in their underwear.

Also, Skip drops by and has sex with Suzi. So she's happy. Good for you, Suzi.

So, all this time Julie's been conflicted, because her friends want her to go back to Tommy and her old hangouts and the mall and whatnots, and she wants to stay with Randy and hang out on street corners in Hollywood looking at hamburger stand signs. So she consults her dad, who is an old hippie, who sensibly tells her not to be a square. And so she stays with Randy and they live happily ever after.

No, that's not what happens. After lying in bed holding a creepy clown doll, she comes to her decision. She announces it to the gang the next day. She's leaving Randy for Tommy. They're pretty psyched.

 Conveniently, Tommy shows up and they officially get back together. And then they live happily ever after. The end.

No, first Julie has to break up with Randy. She gives him the ol' 'It's not you it's me' speech. Randy's not having it. He knows what's really going on.
"It's your fuckin' friends," he points out, astutely. "It's your friends. Well, fuck off. Fuck off FOR SURE. LIKE, TOTALLY."

So then he gets drunk and bangs a chick named Samantha in the bathroom of that stupid club that's always got the Plimsouls on stage. When it's over, he feels strangely unsatisfied. Usually, bathroom sex fixes everything. Then he pukes in an alley. Hollywood!

There's only one thing left for Randy to do: stalk Julie relentlessly until he wears her down. Or until Tommy kills him, whichever comes first.

Either that, or he can always bumrush the prom. The junior prom. Aren't they all like 23 years old?

Anyway, Josie Cotton is the featured performer! While she sings her signature hit, Johnny Are You Queer, Randy and Fred hide behind the stage curtains and figure out the plan to get Julie back. Basically there is no plan, so they go with that. And then they say, "Time to!"

Was “Crush that fly” something that people used to say back then? I don't remember it.

Anyway, there's a grand finale. It involves fake karate and kicks to the balls. And a food fight. And a happy ending. Ladies and gentlemen, the 1980's!

Without Nicolas Cage, Valley Girl would've probably been lumped in with all the b-grade 80's teen coms, ie the Fraternity Vacations, Screwballs and Losin Its, but even at this early stage in his career, it's obvious that the guy is a star. A really weird, overly intense fruitcake of a star, but a star nonetheless. He's such an iconic actor now that it's almost unsettling to see him as this young, awkward guy stomping and storming through this breezy comedy. Aside from Nic, the major appeal here is Valley Girl's time-travel qualities. It really does look like the 80's the way most people remember it: gaudy, cheap,  hoplessly shallow, but with a sense of playfulness and innocence that's all but lost in today's society. EG Daily is great (as are her boobs), Deborah Foreman is the height of 80's adorableness, the soundtrack is as gleefully cheeseball as you'd hope, and it's very difficult not to get caught up in the giddy fun of it all. If you miss the 80's (why?) or want to know what they were like, Valley Girl is perfect for shamelessly wallowing in the day-glo decade.

- Ken McIntyre


  1. film makes no sense

    almost gagged on the "moral"

  2. sequin dresses are in what girls go crazy. They wear them in parties, in clubs, in weddings. Everywhere where there is laughter there is these beautiful dresses!


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