If I weren’t aware that Valley Girl had been released in 1983, I would swear that it were some kind of nostalgic reverie a la Dazed & Confused or a poorly hashed-out parody of the era. The movie is smothered in ’80s-ness. You would be hard-pressed to find a movie that oozes the ’80s as much as this one. When the camera isn’t focusing on businesses long-defunct and Datsun brand cars, it’s showing the characters in the movie — with their flashy clothes (I told my wife that the ’80s look more like the future than the future does), their colored hair, and their Valley speak, which I will try my best to refrain from imitating.
If Valley Girl WAS intended as a nostalgic look back at a bygone era, it might be worth checking out tangentially. Unfortunately, though, it’s clear that all of the fashions and actions in the film are done with complete sincerity… and it becomes kind of sad and dull.
The story is about two star-cross’d lovers, Randy (Cage) and Julie (Deborah Foreman, who you likely do not know). Julie is a preppy high school girl who hangs out with her popular clique-y friends in Beverly Hills. Randy is a crazy punk who does crazy things like going to bars where they play exclusively New Wave music. Randy and his friend bust into a popular kids’ party, where Randy becomes instantly attracted to Julie. For her part, Julie is pretty turned on by Randy, too: she and her friends see him at the beach when the movie begins and giggle about his hot pecs — even though the shirtless pale guy standing before them is Nicolas Cage as his lankiest ever.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that they hardly know each other and don’t really share any meaningful conversation or interests in the movie’s entire runtime, Randy and Julie fall in love. But Julie’s friends warn her that she will not be happy with Randy (they’re probably right) and that he will likely leave her. Why not go out with Tommy? After all, he’s one of us. Oh, boo hoo — what is Julie to do?
Wait, wait, the fact that Randy and Julie don’t seem to get along at all is bothering you? Well, how about a montage showing them talking on the phone together set to Modern English? That proves that they like each other — they’re talking on the phone and smiling! Oh, and by the way, in case it was too subtle for you: they also walk out of a movie theater arm-in-arm after seeing, yes, Romeo & Juliet.
But the movie ditches its Shakespearian aspirations in the second act, deciding to go more in a The Graduate direction. One character is even trying to get in the sack with a girl’s mother. The mother goes so far as to tell the kid, “Let me give you a piece of advice: Plastics.”
So Frederic Forrest, as Julie’s father, comes in to give his daughter advice on whether to go out with Randy or Tommy. When I am a father, I hope my daughter comes to me with problems that are so bold and simple. He gives his daughter an updated ’80s version of the “Rose by Any Other Name” speech, and, well, so it goes.
I will tell you that neither of the characters dies at the end, which really ruins the Romeo & Juliet thing that they’d had going. In fact, I guess the movie just sort of peters out.
So. To repeat myself: Valley Girl belongs in a time capsule, just so future generations can see how ridiculous the 1980s actually were. But it’s pretty lacking in any serious drama, and there is positively no chemistry between the two leads. So there you go. It just ain’t so good.
P.S. One of my favorite lines in a movie ever…
Tommy: [while getting his ticket torn by Randy, who is working as an usher and wearing 3D glasses] Bitchin’! Is this in 3D?
Randy: No, but your face is!