Monday, March 21, 2016

#2,044. Valley Girl (1983)

Directed By: Martha Coolidge

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Deborah Foreman, Elizabeth Daily

Tag line: "Life in the Valley: Hair, clothes... and attitude"

Trivia: Director Martha Coolidge was required by the film's producers to show female breasts at least four times. They felt it would make the movie more appealing to younger males

The term “Valley Girl” originated in Southern California in the early 1980’s, and there were a number of stereotypes that went hand-in-hand with this moniker. The product of an upper middle-class environment, Valley Girls (or “Vals”, for short) were, in most cases, high school students who lived in the San Fernando Valley, spent their free time shopping at the Galleria mall, and had their own unique way of speaking, throwing words and phrases such as “like”, “you know”, “totally”, and “gag me with a spoon” into just about every sentence. 

Frank Zappa even wrote a song about them (titled, quite aptly, “Valley Girl”), which featured a running “Valleyspeak”-style monologue by his daughter, Moon Unit.

Needless to say, Valley Girls were easy targets for ridicule (Zappa’s song is mostly comedic in nature). Yet, surprisingly enough, director Martha Coolidge’s 1983 film Valley Girl doesn’t poke fun at this exclusive class of young women; it’s a touching teen love story, with likable characters and a tale of romance that's sure to melt even the coldest heart.

Julie (Deborah Foreman) has just broken up with her boyfriend Tommy (Michael Bowen), and is ready for the next love of her life. To her surprise, she gives her heart not to one of her rich classmates, but a punk rocker from Hollywood named Randy (Nicolas Cage), who crashes a party hosted by her friend Suzi (Michelle Meyrink). 

Though they travel in very different circles, Julie and Randy fall head-over-heels for one another. Julie’s friends, Suzi, Loryn (Elizabeth Daily), and Stacey (Heidi Holicker), tell her to dump Randy - because he isn’t “one of them” - and hook back up with Tommy. Faced with the very real possibility of being ostracized at school, Julie must decide what’s more important: her social standing, or the guy she loves.

It’s a story as old as Shakespeare: two young people from opposite sides of the tracks meet and fall in love, only to be forced apart by those who claim to have their "best interest" in mind. Yet this time-honored plot device works well in Valley Girl thanks in large part to the performances of its two leads. Though she is occasionally as vapid as her friends, Foreman‘s Julie takes a chance when Randy enters the picture, and is rewarded with a relationship that may be the most important of her life. Despite pressure from her peers to toss Randy aside, Julie’s ex-hippie parents (played by Frederic Forrest and Colleen Camp) have taught her to be independent, and advise Julie to follow her heart. 

Stronger still is Nicolas Cage as Randy, whose tough exterior melts away whenever he’s with Julie. Valley Girl marked Cage’s first lead role in a movie, and his patented quirkiness, coupled with a genuine chemistry between he and Foreman, ensured it would be a memorable debut.

Valley Girl does get a bit raunchy at times; there’s plenty of nudity scattered throughout, and a subplot involving Suzi and her stepmom Beth (Lee Purcell), who are both after the same boy, has a fairly erotic payoff. Still, even with the skin and sex, Valley Girl features interesting characters and a poignant love story, and thus has more in common with such ‘80s teen films as Pretty in Pink and Say Anything than it does Porky’s and The Last American Virgin.

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