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So, like, the ‘80s was like fer sure the golden age of awesome teen movies. There were like a bunch of you know cool films like The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Pretty in Pink. But, you know, like totally the most awesomely tubular teen film of all time is Valley Girl.

No, I am not going to write this entire review in Val Speak, although it’s very tempting. Simply put, Valley Girl is my favourite film of all time. Heathers comes a close second and The Breakfast Club an even closer third, but no film I have ever seen has come close to knocking Valley Girl off of the number one perch on my favourite films list. Here’s why...

Valley Girl: Special Edition

Feature


Southern California, the early ‘80s. Valley girl Julie Richman (Deborah Foreman) and her best gal pals, Loryn (Elizabeth Daily), Stacey (Heidi Holicker) and Suzi (Michelle Meyrink) are hanging out at their favourite place, the mall. Julie confides in her friends that her boyfriend Tommy (Michael Bowen) is making her feel like a piece of old furniture and it’s time for something new. So Julie promptly dumps Val guy Tommy at the bottom of the mall escalator and sets her sights on another guy who will be at Suzi’s party that night. But instead of hooking up with another Val guy, Julie meets a guy from Hollywood, Randy (Nicolas Cage), who crashes the party with his friend Fred (Cameron Dye). There is an instant attraction between Randy and Julie and while their first encounter is marred by Randy being thrown out of the party, the two eventually hook up and begin their supposedly doomed Romeo and Juliet type romance. Randy and Julie’s relationship goes along happily despite their differences until the good old peer group pressure kicks into gear and Julie’s friends start to plant doubts in her mind about the suitability of her new ‘punk’ squeeze. Julie must make the tough choice between staying with Hollywood weirdo Randy and returning to her charmed Valley existence with Tommy and her Valley gal pals.

During the 1982-1983 summer movie season, two impressive teen films were released and unfortunately Valley Girl was slightly overshadowed by the more successful Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It has only been in subsequent years that Valley Girl has garnered some real devotion from fans and established itself as an important film in the teen film canon. Its significance is partially due to the eloquent direction of Martha Coolidge, who has treated the teen romance and all the characters with a degree of respect and affection that most teen films never come close to ever presenting.  Shot over twenty two days on a very limiting $350,000 budget, Valley Girl had to be meticulously planned out through storyboards before filming began as the budget only afforded director Martha Coolidge one take for most scenes, with only the prom scene having multiple takes. Budget restrictions also meant that the actors wore their own clothes throughout most of the film, with once again the prom scene being the exception with dresses and tuxedos hired. Because more than one take was a luxury on this film, there are quite a few continuity errors and even one blooper which involves gum falling out of Nic Cage’s mouth into the lap of co-star Michael Bowen, which makes the rest of the cast in the scene break out in hysterical laughter.

Valley Girl: Special Edition
Cage took his preparation for the film to the extreme by sleeping in his car during the production and writing love letters to co-star Deborah Foreman.  All Cage’s preparation pays off as his performance is slightly wacky, but quite sweet and certainly restrained compared to his subsequent performances onscreen. The rest of the cast are also excellent, with Deborah Foreman requisitely sweet and innocent with an always present hint of shallowness underlining her performance. Frederic Forrest as Julie’s sweet, hippy father is simply fantastic and Cameron Dye as Randy’s best friend Fred is probably the most humorous character in the film, but he only gets limited screen time. Though Cage and a few other cast members are stand outs, the film is really a strong ensemble piece with all the characters showing development as the story unfolds. Most of the film is concerned with the relationship between Randy and Julie, however, there is one major subplot which acts as a tribute to The Graduate, in which Susie’s Mother Beth (Lee Purcell) tries to seduce her daughter’s potential boyfriend Skip (David Ensor). It is a incidental narrative in many ways, but still very entertaining, particularly when Skip eventually chooses between mother and daughter.

On the surface, there is really no reason why Valley Girl should work and no explanation as to why it has become one of the cult teen films of the ‘80s. Yes, it has an untainted debut performance from Nicolas Cage and the soundtrack is a slice of new wave perfection, but the story is wafer thin, partially based on the ideas presented is the films namesake song by Frank Zappa and his daughter Moon Unit. However, the film scribes, Wayne Crawford and Andrew Lane, who actually camped out in bushes around shopping malls in the Valley to capture the authenticity of Val speak, offer up a sparkly script and also had the insight to recognise the material needed a strong female perspective to guide the story, especially since the direction was going to be hampered by the producers view of the film as another money spinning teen exploitation flick, with as many sex scenes and boob shots as possible.  From the beginning of the production the film was planned as an R rated film, so there was a predetermined quota of breast shots and generous uses of the f-word in all the Val speak that Coolidge was contractually compelled to include.

Valley Girl: Special Edition
While Coolidge agreed to the contractual stipulations and made sure all the requirements were met, she made sure she could make the film and the required shots her own way. Coolidge recognised the charm of the story and that the pseudo 'Romeo and Juliet' romance would be appealing to ‘80s teenagers and always had the belief that the film was more than another teen sex comedy and could be much more successful. In fact Valley Girl’s focus on the moment when social circumstances or differences, at there strongest in the high school environment, were no longer strong enough to keep teen soul mates apart would later become John Hughes’ signature theme in his teen flicks. Claire and Bender, Andy and Allison in The Breakfast Club. Samantha Baker and Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles and of course Blaine and Andy in Pretty in Pink.  In Valley Girl,  this social circumstance is as simple as Julie is from the Valley and Randy’s not.  

In some ways Valley Girl does the most convincing job of telling the story of two teens in love than most other teen movies. The teenagers in Valley Girl are likely exactly like many of the teens who populated Hollywood and the Valley in the early eighties. And unlike all the John Hughes films, the parents in Valley Girl  are not the enemy, which they often were in Hughes films. Julie’s parents Sarah and Steve (Colleen Camp & Frederic Forrest) are former hippies who run a heath food store. They give their daughter plenty of space to make her own decisions, but are also somewhat confused when it comes to her friends. They are not simpleminded or neglectful and one of the best scenes in the film is a sweet conversation between Julie and her father when she asks him which guy she should should choose, Randy or Tommy.  If any scene in the Valley Girl drives home the film's message of the importance of individuality, it is this scene. And unlike some similarly themed scenes in other teen flicks, it is neither heavy handed nor overly moralising.

Valley Girl: Special Edition
Two decades after its release, Valley Girl certainly offers major nostalgia value, if nothing else, for some viewers. The fashion, the music and the vernacular are pure early ‘80s goodness. But because the film relies on a classic star crossed lovers story and Cage and Foreman exhibit abundant chemistry in their scenes together, Valley Girl retains a certain freshness and originality that makes it much more than just simply another 80s teen flick. I do have a somewhat warped perspective of this film and I honesty cannot be objective. I have seen it too many times to count and to me it is as much a masterpiece of cinema as The Breakfast Club, or any of the other 80s teen films that have gained mythical status in the public consciousness. Valley Girl  is just  a totally tripendicular film.

Video


As is customary with a MGM release, you can watch Valley Girl in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio or in a modified full frame version. Although this is the best the film has ever looked, the low budget origins of the film harm the colour saturation and clarity of the transfer. It’s unlikely that anything could have been done to improve on these problems, but the video has certainly been paid some attention with the images predominately sharp and no pixilation or visible artefacts and there are only a few visible incidents of edge enhancement. It is really is the colour balance that makes this transfer slightly disappointing, however, overall the dominant pastel colour scheme of the film does look pretty good. The anamorphic widescreen transfer looks especially impressive when compared when the full frame version, which offers a very soft, grainy image. Colours hinder many of the scenes to the point of being unwatchable and film artefacts are very noticeable, particularly in daylight scenes.

Audio


The central Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround package provides clear dialogue all the way through the film and there is no audible distortion or audio sync issues. The Valley Girl soundtrack was one of the first ‘80s teen soundtracks to offer an amazing array of New Wave classics and this transfer presents the killer soundtrack well. Music plays an essential role in the film, with New Wave legends The Plimsouls as well as Josie Cotton credited as cameo performers. The Plimsouls serenade the first outing for Randy and Julie at a Hollywood club and Josie Cotton and her band play the Valley High prom. But it’s the classic Modern English tune ‘I Melt With You’ that stands as the musical highlight of the movie. Most of the music spreads excellently out into the surrounds, with the remainder of the audio strongly confined to the front and centre channels.

Valley Girl: Special Edition

Extras


I would have been happy (and not really surprised) if Valley Girl had received a bare bones release because while I consider it a classic, that view is certainly not widespread enough for it deserve such  wonderful treatment with a nice collection of extras. The only complaint is the conspicuous absence of the Valley Girl herself, Deborah Foreman.

Firstly, there is an audio commentary with director Martha Coolidge waxing lyrical about the experience of making this low budget film. She offers some major insight into how the production was run, how actors coped with particular scenes and also how profound making the film was for her both personally and professionally. The second commentary on offer is a video clip commentary provided by most of the cast members of the film. Throughout the film video clips of cast members discussing a memory or story relating to a scene pop up. This is an interesting way to present a commentary and in some ways provides much more information than an ordinary commentary track with all the participants in one location trying to talk over each other. However, most the clips are very short and some have simply been repeated from the featurettes. ‘80s Nostalgia and Trivia Track’ is the last track option to accompany the film. Various pop up facts appears throughout the running time of the film offering both facts about the film and closely associated ‘80s pop culture facts. Some are interesting, some are downright out of left field in their relevance, but this is a nice little track that offers a little bit of entertainment value.

 ‘Valley Girl: 20 Totally Tubular Years Later’ is a retrospective featurette with Coolidge and almost the entire original cast offering up their memories of making the film. As I mentioned there is one cast member who is conspicuously absent, Deborah Foreman, who played Julie. It’s incredibly disappointing that she is not part of this or any of the other features on this special edition, but the rest of the cast do fine without her. Nic Cage, Cameron Dye, Michael Bowen, Elizabeth (aka E.G.) Daily, Heidi Holicker, Lee Purcell, Colleen Camp and Frederic Forrest all speak about their experiences and it’s clear that this film means a lot to everyone. ‘In Conversation: Nicholas Cage and Martha Coolidge’ is exactly what it sounds like and has the star and director discussing all the aspects of the one film they have worked on together. Obviously these two have kept in touch over the years, but they do still manage to surprise each other when a few revelations about what they think about each other and how they worked together on the film.

Valley Girl: Special Edition
‘The Music of Valley Girl’ featurette is a welcome extra on this set because the music of this film is an additional character and almost steals the entire movie. Josie Cotton, Peter Case from The Plimsouls and Robbie Grey from Modern English are all interviewed and reflect on the positive and negative aspects of having their songs associated with Valley Girl. In addition to the music focused featurette there are also music videos for ‘I Melt with You’ by Modern English and ‘A Million Miles Away’ by The Plimsouls. ‘Storyboard to film Comparisons’ is presented via a split screen showing both actual clips of the film and their corresponding storyboards. Three parts of the film are presented with two short clips ‘Opening: At the Mall’ and ‘the Beach', and one extended clip of ‘the Party’.

Lastly, there are two nice little Easter eggs that can be accessed through the special features menu. Highlighting a pic of Nic Cage you get treated to some short clips showing some of the famous LA locations used in the film in their present day incarnations, including Ventura Blvd, Dupars restaurant, the view of Hollywood from Mulholland Drive and the Casa Vega restaurant. Similarly, pressing the right arrow control from the special features menu, a heart will be highlighted and will reveal a short clip from the film with the Val speak translated into plain English.

The reverse side of the disc containing the full frame version of the film offers the Martha Coolidge commentary and ‘80s Nostalgia and Trivia Track’ carried over from the widescreen side of the disc. Also on offer on the reverse side in the theatrical trailer for the film, plus bonus trailers for the DVD releases of The Sure Thing and Legally Blonde. To finish the disc off there is a promo entitled ‘Best of the 1980s’ which highlights all the MGM releases of 80s teen films.

Valley Girl: Special Edition

Overall


Like, this release is totally tubular and no Valley Girl fan could really ask for more. It’s not a perfect DVD release, with some of the extras not really worthwhile and a few cast members missing from the retrospective musings, but why complain when what is on offer is pretty great? Valley Girl is one of the more underrated flicks of the ‘80s and while it hasn't soared to the heights of pop culture status that other teen flicks of the ‘80s have over the past twenty years, it has its loyal fans and being one of the most loyal I cannot recommend this release highly enough.


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