(1983) dir. Martha Coolidge
I’ll just put this up front: Valley Girl is one of my favorite movies.
I’ve liked it since I first saw it on cable probably around 1984 or so. I had it more or less as a guilty pleasure up until 10-15 years ago when I “came out” as a fan unironically. I don’t pose it against the highest of cinematic art, but I think it’s a charming film, the best of the 1980’s teen films, a film with a sweetness and romantic heart that features fine performances in both the leading roles (Nicolas Cage’s first leading role and Deborah Foreman) and in many of the additional cast: Frederic Forrest as Foreman’s dad, Elizabeth Daily as the sweet, semi-trampy friend, Michael Bowen as the braindead hunk villain, Cameron Dye as Cage’s goofball pal, and even Heidi Hollicker as Foreman’s small-minded pal.
The film has an excellent soundtrack with Modern English, Sparks, The Psychedelic Furs, and performance footage of Josie Cotton and the Plimsouls, who also contribute wonderfully to the soundtrack. I actually had a buddy in film school who wrote a paper on the use of the soundtrack in the film to reflect the goings on in their respective scenes: Modern English’s “I Melt With You” being a prime romantic point, but also more innocuously when background party music features Sparks “I’ve Got Angst in My Pants” when the nervous partygoers first find their footing, The Payola$ “Eyes of a Stranger” signifying Cage’s bedroom eye glances when first making contact with Foreman, and most amusingly, Josie Cotton’s “Johnny Are You Queer?” at the moment in which Cage confronts Bowen for a fist-fight to establish manhood and ultimately Foreman’s hand. It’s actually pervasive throughout the film, so hopefully you get the point.
Ostensibly, it’s a relatively explicit Romeo and Juliet for the early 1980’s Los Angeles. Cage’s Randy is the Hollywood new wave-ish punk and Foreman’s Julie is the titular Valley Girl from “the Valley”, spouting amusingly archaic and colorful slang, the wrong side/right side of the Los Angeles tracks. And while Julie’s parents, aging hippies, offer more open-minded advice, it’s Julie’s friends who airheadedly yearn for the most staid and true forms of romance are the ones who look to break them up.
Both Cage and Foreman are genuinely sweet and have a true chemistry. In fact, watching it this time, probably the first time in 10 years or so, I felt very touched by her performance. Okay, fair enough, I have the softest of soft spots for this film, but this is why. I think it had a great deal of charm.
Most perhaps sadly and amusingly, my biggest takeaway from this viewing of this film (one of less than 15 films that I own on DVD) was that I think my approach to romancing girls, from my youngest years at it, were modeled heavily on Randy’s charm and sincerity, with the romantic, swoony pick-up lines to the knockabout humor. Sad, probably, this. But true.
While some of my other favorite films include Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man (1995), Billy Wilder’s Some Like it Hot (1959), Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), and Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera (1929), as well as probably a few others (it’s a question that I dislike overall — choosing a favorite anything), Valley Girl is indeed a personal favorite. It’s one that I just simply like, enjoy, and still do, very much.
I’m out and proud on this one.