April 13, 2013

Valley Girl

Valley Girl (1983) is sort of a critique of 80's teenage materialism and the rigid social hierarchy that exists in high schools. It's also a romantic comedy about two people from different social spheres. But more than anything, Valley Girl is a leisurely stroll through a particular time and place, the Valley circa 1982, where well-to-do teenage girls spend their afternoons and weekends racking up debt on their parents' credit cards at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, speaking in a kind of other-worldly dialect that's equal parts ridiculous and amusing. 

The main "Valley Girl" is played by Deborah Foreman, who's a charming actress but whose character, Julie, is only slightly less vapid than the rest of her superficial girlfriends. Julie is dating the typical jock-douche bag, Tommy (Michael Bowen, who seems made for parts like this), but is tired of the way he treats her. So when she sees Randy (Nicolas Cage), who's more punk than preppie, crashing one of her friends' parties, she decides to pursue a romantic relationship with him, even though he's "different." Randy takes Julie outside the Valley and exposes her to different sub-cultures and this all serves as an eye-opening experience for her, but she's pressured by her friends to dump him because dating an outsider will not do.

It's hard to feel very invested in Julie's plight, and while Nicolas Cage, whose puppy dog face is the primary reason for his charm, is believable as the alluring outcast-lover, he's also a bit obsessive. (On the other hand, he's genuinely devoted to Julie where Tommy is interested in having a girlfriend for his own selfish reasons.) Randy's plan to win Julie back fails until the end when he crashes the prom and punches out Tommy. Immediately, Julie goes back to him. There was never much of a strong case for staying with Tommy, anyway. However, Valley Girl doesn't have enough good ideas in its script to make its plot come together. It all just sort of lies there and lumbers along. There are funny bits thrown in--typical of director Martha Coolidge's films--and viewers will appreciate Valley Girl more for its bubblegum flavor than its staying power. It's a fun movie but it never manages to rise about the valley girl shallowness it half-heartedly seeks to make fun of. 

There's an amusing sub-plot involving one of Julie's friends, Suzi (Michelle Meyrink), who's vying for the attention of a boy named Skip (David Ensor), but must compete with her beautiful young stepmom. The supporting cast includes Elizabeth Daily, Cameron Dye, Heidi Holicker, Lee Purcell, Joyce Hyser, and Colleen Camp and Frederic Forrest as Julie's ex-hippy parents. Written by Wayne Crawford and Andrew Lane. 99 min. ½

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