MPW-39945

Review: VALLEY GIRL (1983)

by Meredith Grau
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Best Bad Quote:
“Hi, I’m Fred. I like tacos and ’71 Cabernet. My favorite color is magenta.”
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Prepare to be dazzled. Valley Girl showcases Nicolas Cage at his most “trippin’dicular,” and I’m not kidding. This could be his best performance. His blend of youthful weirdness, as opposed to the manic man with periwigs of many colors, is charming as Hell, as is his chemistry with leading lady Deborah Foreman. So what makes the film “bad?” Essentially the fact that it is labeled as another cheap Fast Times at Ridgemont High knock off. However, this is an unfair assessment. Both plots occur in high school; the similarities end there. Amy Heckerling’s well constructed interpretation of youth’s misconstrued and premature posturing of adulthood is a far stretch from this Romeo and Juliet tale, directed by Martha Coolidge, and set in… Dun, dun, dun… THE VALLEY!
 
Caveat emptor: if chronic use of the word “like,” like bugs you out, this is not the film for you. However, viewed as a satirical piece on dumb bell culture, it will surprise you as sweet, funny, and plenty Cage-y.
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Julie (Foreman) is SO over her beefcake ex-boyfriend Tommy (beloved bad boy character actor Michael Bowen). “He’s got the bod, but his brains are bad news.” While her friends are busy buying large, pastel bracelets, Julie and her Woody the Woodpecker pin have their eyes on the future and a life with more substance and passion. Enter Randy (Cage), who is so NOT a val dude. He’s from Hollywood. A Punk. Hard core. You know, because he and his BFF Bailey (Cameron Dye) have multi-colored hair. Plus, they speak in Standard American dialect, bereft of such melodic phrases as “Gross me out,” “Gag me with a spoon,” and “Forsure.” In other words, their counter-cultural rebellion makes them personae non grata over the hill.
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At her friend’s supercool party, Julie and reluctant party crasher Randy lock eyes, and it’s all over but the shaggin’. They are head over heels in love, but “O,” just as the Montagues and Capulets, they come from different worlds. Julie’s friends want her to be with ex-boyf Tommy to keep the bloodline pure, Julie wants Randy, and her dad (Frederic Forrest) wants to smoke a doobie in his huarache sandals. Tensions mount, a breakup is inevitable, and it is up to Mr. Randy Romance to defy social etiquette and win his woman back.
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This film’s an ace at taking a ridiculous situation– immature high school love in the mall– and making it not only a serious but seriously fun matter. You will get a Cage crush if you don’t have one already, and Foreman’s bright-eyed innocence and depth of feeling makes her conflicted airhead absolutely adorable. The supporting cast is also great, with comic and tragic interweaving stories. A MILF, sexual backstabbing, and zip code prejudice round out the plot with heart and panache. Dye as “Bailey” is a fantastic wing man, btw. 
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The real charm of the film is its generosity in giving the teen characters surprising and honest moments of depth and maturity as opposed to today’s teeny-bopper barf fests that present us with short, under-aged, colorless actors parading as adults and convincing no one. They used to make movies about people. Those were the days… [Fade out to awesome ’80s soundtrack]. “Johnny, are you queer?”
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PS: Cage’s teeth have not yet been capped in this film. You’ve been warned.
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Rating:
5 out of 5 Robotic Mullet Dancers
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