"We live in a box of space and time. Movies are the windows in its walls." (Roger Ebert)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Something stinks in suburbia..."

I hope all the McDreamy fangirls aren’t going to flame me for saying this, but CAN’T BUY ME LOVE (1987) is not much more than a moderately funny Patrick Dempsey vehicle picture. Yes, children, once upon a time, there was such a thing. That skinny, curly-haired moppet seemed to pop up in practically every teen movie as the ubiquitous babe in geek’s clothing. This isn’t my favorite movie he did in this decade, but it’s harmless and appealing enough to go well with, say, a bag of microwaved popcorn on a rainy afternoon. The plot is easy to follow, relaxing, and offers a few pleasant giggles along the way with a healthy dose of angsty adolescent nostalgia.

Ronald is a hopelessly lame guy who spends his much of his free time tooling around in a lawnmower outside of Cindy Mancini’s house, hoping for a glimpse of the ultra-cool cheerleader. His life is constrained by a rigid routine: homework, lawnmowing, poker night with the guys. Nothing much ever changes and it’s making him crazy. Secretly he yearns for a miracle that will turn around his geekdom and allow him to enjoy a normal social life in his senior year of high school. As they say, good things come to those who wait. He gets the chance of a lifetime when he spots Cindy having a nervous breakdown at the mall, trying to return her mom’s priceless white suede jumpsuit with fringes (don’t laugh, it was the 80s) after she spilled red wine all over it at a party. Ronald was intending to buy a fancy telescope with the money he saved up all summer from mowing lawns, but instead he decides to bail out Cindy and give her a thousand dollars of his hard-earned money to replace the jumpsuit. Before you sigh with admiration at his generosity, wait for the catch: he tells Cindy he wants to “rent her” as his fake girlfriend.

Cindy is horrified, but she has no choice but to agree to this Faustian bargain. In return for the cash, she will help him navigate the social perils of the lunchroom, pizzeria, and school hallway. The idea is that her very presence will make Ronald popular by osmosis. Everyone is appalled by the new couple, both the cool and nerdy kids. But slowly, public perceptions of Ronald start to change. Meanwhile, Cindy and Ronald’s relationship starts blurring the line between business and pleasure, spending more time together and sharing touching thoughts and feelings. Ronald washes her car and Cindy reads him a poem she wrote. He plans an incredibly romantic date which starts out at an airplane junkyard (this is rather inexplicable… I don’t think I can blame this one on the 80s) and ends up looking at the moon in the convertible. Understandably, Cindy completely misreads his signals. Just as she leans in for the big kiss, Ronald busts out with the thought that they should start planning their public breakup. Crushed, but trying not to show it, Cindy goes along with the plan and Ronald makes an over-the-top scandal in the schoolyard the next day. Everyone is so impressed that he had the gall to break up with the hottest girl in school that his social stock skyrockets and the popular girls are all over him.

Ronald thinks he’s got it made, but then he comes face-to-face with the cold hard reality: his coolness is a complete sham. When he is asked to the dance, he panics and rushes to the television, hoping to get a crash-course in the latest moves and grooves from American Bandstand. Tragically, he flips the channel to a documentary on African tribal rituals instead, which brings us to the highlight and the true historical significance of this film: the notorious African Anteater Ritual. At the big dance, he enthusiastically performs perhaps the most spastic and hilarious dance scene of the 80s. The crowd is stunned speechless by his bizarre display. Then a witless jock speaks up: “If the Ronster is doing it, it must be new!” Everyone agrees and by the end of the night, it’s the newest dance craze to sweep the town. Only the nerds who recognize the tribal ritual are clued in to what Ronald has done and shun him completely for his sanctimonious hypocrisy. But there’s nothing they can do. It seems Ronald’s coolness is a force of nature that cannot be stopped. But in his hubris, Ronald has forgotten about the wild card, the only one who knows the secret of his success. And when her social fortunes take a nosedive, Cindy publicly lashes out at the architect of her misery. Will Ronald survive her scathing revelation and succeed in putting things right again? If you don’t already know the answer, watch the film for a textbook case study of conventional 80s teen film conclusions.

The film is not all fluff and silliness. The arrangement between Ronald and Cindy raises many questions about the balance of the sexes and the fine line between the perception of sex as consumption or labor. While nothing serious ever happens between them, the fact that money has changed hands makes the whole thing seem really seedy. As their respective popularities flip-flop, it is never clear who's getting the better end of the deal. Furthermore, the hilarious confusion about the African Anteater Ritual dance is a clever send-up of not only of the rather insane dance styles of the 80s, but of the arbitrary and ephemeral nature of “coolness” itself. Presumably all the high school kids who watched this film were convinced that chasing trends is stupid and resolved to just be themselves from then on. This scene is a wonderful gem of cultural history and the best part of the movie. I’m sharing the clip with you here for edifying and instructive purposes. For those of you with a passionate adoration for Patrick Dempsey or a lot of time to spare, you might want to go ahead and watch the whole thing. 3/5 stars.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

"It's almost like school in there!"

What happens when you throw every cinematic cliché of the 80s onto the screen at the same time? I’m talking about combining a tough-talking urbanista, pregnant new-waver, helium-voiced geek, distracted surfer chick, amateur gigolo, stupid football player, foreign exchange hottie, and two freaks who reenact scenes from horror movies in gruesome detail at every opportunity? Well, in the case of SUMMER SCHOOL (1987), you get a veritable miracle of comedic alchemy. This throw-away flick was clearly made with more love and care than the typical teen comedies of today. That's why this spicy potpourri of comic zingers and visual gags keeps audiences laughing over two decades after many of its more stuffy contemporaries have been forgotten.

Slacker gym teacher Freddie Shoop is suckered into giving up his vacation in Hawaii to teach remedial English to a bunch of losers in summer school. This course is designed for students at the bottom of the academic and social barrel, and lackadaisical Shoop is woefully unprepared for dealing with them. “I’m not a real teacher!” he protests to the Vice Principal. “That’s okay, they’re not real students,” he is told. Shoop cobbles together a lesson plan based on the kids’ personal experiences, combined with crazy field trips. He is busted by the mean Vice Principal for his unconventional methods and threatens to turn him in to the Principal. To save his skin, Shoop swears his students will pass the exam, but underestimates the students’ resistance. Finally, they come to an understanding: if Shoop grants each of them one wish, they will study hard and pass the exam. Neither Shoop nor the kids realized what they bargained for… keeping up both ends of the agreement will turn out to be far more challenging than any of them imagined!

The biggest strength of this film is the perfect execution of the 80’s ensemble cast technique. This is harder to accomplish than one might think. Every actor holds up his end of the script and fits together with the others like the pieces of a puzzle. No single character upstages the others and all are equally unique and memorable. It may even outshine THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985) in the sense that it takes the complex interpersonal dynamics of the students out of the confines of the school setting. It allows us to observe the private details of their personal lives, creating well-rounded characterizations and opportunities for interesting interactions and scenarios. Viewers often comment on how relatable the characters are, either to themselves or people they know. There’s a reason why teen movies often recycle the same stereotypes, and that’s because they are usually accurate. Here, the formulaic roles are so deliciously twisted, so ridiculously goofy, that it infuses the tired old clichés with fresh new life

This is a rather short review, as there’s really not much else to say. The movie is as simple and straightforward as they come. This is a theatrical experience which must be experienced and savored, not over-analyzed to death. I guarantee that you will laugh like a monkey and probably hate yourself for doing so. Then, you will check to make sure nobody is looking, hit rewind on the VCR, and watch the whole thing again. It really is that hilarious! 3/5 stars.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"It was nothing. It still is nothing."

Prospective viewers of the film LITTLE DARLINGS (1980) should heed the warning on the promo poster: don’t let the title fool you. The standard summertime coming-of-age story is elevated to a new level by a raw, unvarnished production style. The focus is on fifteen-year-old girls Angel and Ferris, attending summer camp away from home for the first time. What a pleasure it is to see a film where the characters are played by young actors who actually look their age! While the film never misses a chance to revel in clumsy humor, it also treats the characters with dignity and refuses to allow the scenario to deteriorate into a farce. The tone of the story is pitch-perfect and will ring true with anyone who survived adolescence.

Angel is a rough tomboy who shuns cliquish chatter about boys and clothes. Ferris is a preppy princess too fragile for dirt and outdoor sports. Both are marginal characters in the camp society, and their position is exploited a devious sexpot named Cinder. She invents an amusing summer diversion for her bunkmates: they will wager on which girl will lose her virginity first. After Ferris emerges as the betting favorite, Angel rises to the challenge. Ferris and Angel cast about for targets of their seduction. Over-confident Ferris chooses the much-older sports coach. She bats her eyelashes, shows off her French, and fakes a drowning in an attempt to win his attention. Meanwhile, Angel gathers a posse and sneaks over to the boys’ camp on the other side of the lake. There she encounters bad-boy Randy, who has the same shag haircut as she does, and the sparks fly between them. The race is on to see who will land her man first.

Their bunkmates act as a Greek chorus, egging on the girls when they lose their nerve and offering well-meaning but misguided advice. There is much hilarity as they spout misinformation in the form of literary clichés, urban legends, old wives’ tales, and superstitions. Eventually they begin to feel guilty over their role in the bet. “Maybe losing your virginity should be a private thing?” wonders one of the girls. But it’s too late. Friendships, reputations, and a lot of cash are riding on what happens. The film's scenario represents the vested interest of peers and society in sex as performance. It offers an astute commentary on how the private sexual experiences of teens are appropriated by the public sphere, in the media, politics, and religion.

The film’s brilliance lies in recognizing that for Ferris and Angel, sex boils down to a struggle to validate their identity. Ferris suffers from a nebulous confusion between fantasy and reality. In acting out her Harlequin daydreams, she wants to shed her false sophistication and overcome her reputation as the annoying rich girl. Angel has inherited a crude view of romance from her cynical mother and is desperate to be seen as more than just a sex object. When she baits Randy with the accusation, “I’m not sexy to you,” she is devastated when he replies, “All girls are sexy.” Both Ferris and Angel fight to assert their personhood through sex, and each discovers in her own way that even when you are as close as you can possibly be to another person, you can still be very lonely.

The tragedy of modern adolescence portrayed in the film is that the girls are wise beyond their years and know more than they should. Both girls have a complicated family life. On Family Day, Ferris’s father breaks the news that her mother has left for Reno. “But people get divorced in Reno!” exclaims Ferris. Angel interrogates her mother about how she lost her virginity and receives a very disillusioning response. For the viewer, there is a constant nagging horror that the girls are too young to handle the situations they have been thrust into. When Angel has an epiphany and exclaims, “I’m not a woman!” we know it has come to her at a great cost.

There are many layers of meaning in LITTLE DARLINGS. Superficially it has a wholesome, unpretentious charm. It vividly captures the exquisite awkwardness of growing up. The plot is enjoyable, full of cutesy food fight, campfire songs, and oddball costumes. However, the self-conscious scenes of sun-kissed girls frolicking in the blooming outdoors lend an unsettling element of a pastoral Eden just waiting for the Fall. There is a creepy and titillating element of virgin sacrifice, reminiscent of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (1975), lurking just below the surface of the straightforward plot and making the film far more nuanced than it seems.

LITTLE DARLINGS is a film is about the loss of innocence in every sense of the word. It examines the way we construct our knowledge of the world, and depicts the appeal and agony of experience. The shocking betrayals and incredible heartbreaks the girls inflict on each other awaken them to the cold fact that life rarely turns out like you thought it would be. At the same time, the film is refreshingly untainted by the crude, clinical vulgarity masquerading as realism which mars contemporary teen dramas like THIRTEEN (2003). Finally, here is a film which fully recognizes that the cerebral and emotional effects of sexual initiation outlast the physical ones. By the time the summer is over, no one is interested in the outcome of the contest. The girls learn that in the bittersweet game of growing up, there are often no winners. 4/5 stars.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Stay away from ginger ale and tequila!"

Prom night is the lens through which the fantasies, hopes and dreams of middle-class suburban American teens are filtered. You know, like white slavery, gunplay, drugs, grand theft auto, assault, armed robbery...the usual. THE NIGHT BEFORE (1988) presents a highly unusual take on the quotidian prom-night experience regularly portrayed by films. In other words, this is not your average after-school special. In fact, this film is so peculiar and offbeat, that while the story itself is a little bit primitive, the overall effect is so hypnotic that you just can’t tear yourself away. I feel justified in giving away some plot details, since the tagline outlines most of the story and the promo poster itself has the audacity to reveal the central visual gag of the whole movie.

The movie opens with a groaning Winston, clad in a dirty tuxedo and rolling in the garbage in an unidentified back alley. He has a massive headache, has no idea where he is, and worst of all, he can’t remember anything that happened. It is clear that something did happen, something major. Unfortunately, everyone around him is very unhelpful. He wanders around the unfamiliar neighborhood, groping for answers, and stumbles upon some confusing clues: a parking ticket, a wad of cash in his inside pocket, the name Tito. Memories return in painful flashes, serving as clever narrative segues which gradually reveal the backstory to the audience.

Winston is a loveable naïf, so hopelessly geeky that his sole social accomplishment is serving as the president of the high school astronomy club. Through an amazing twist of fate, he is taking the most popular girl to the prom after she lost a bet with her friends. Tara is a glamorous sophisticate, the captain of the cheerleading squad and a teen model. She is horrified when she realizes that Winston refuses to recognize their arrangement as anything less than a regular date. He brings her flowers, keeps rambling on about what a great time they’re going to have, and promises her gun-toting cop father to have her back by midnight. This proves to be impossible when they get lost on the way to the prom. Winston unwittingly magnetizes his car’s compass (pretty stupid for an astronomy enthusiast) and they end up in the bad part of town.

Tara is outraged and demands that Winston fork over enough cash to pay for her taxi ride home. But she is unprepared to cope with the disastrous ramifications of Winston’s indefatigable optimism and earnest belief in the goodness of strangers. “90% of people are murdered by somebody they know,” he reassures Tara. “Do you know anybody here?” Despite this winning attitude, Winston makes a series of fatal errors in judgment, plunging the young pair into the squalid depths of the Los Angeles underworld. Their first misstep is entering the nearest building to look for a phone to call for help. The couple finds themselves in a scuzzy dance club, filled with an assortment of bizarre and dangerous characters.

The club’s band is played by the wonderful p-funk group Bootsy Collins' Rubber Band. Look for Bootsy himself playing an amazingly cool star-shaped bass guitar. The funk soundtrack is a slice of authentic 80’s counterculture and a welcome change from the familiar new wave hits. Winston props up his flagging courage with a gulp of alcohol from a random glass, which turns out to be spiked. Luckily, Winston is a fun drunk. Inspired by the music, he riles up the band to a fever pitch, takes Tara for a spin on the dance floor, and busts some highly impressive moves to the delightful song “Baby Boy.” He caps off his performance by collapsing on a table full of drinks. He tells Tara, “If I start acting stupid, tell me, okay?” By now, it's clear that he’s way past that point. Remember, he’s wandering around downtown with no car, no wallet, no date, and no memory of what happened last night after leaving the club.

Miraculously, he finds his car, only to have it stolen right out from under his nose by a quick and enterprising car thief. If this wasn’t worrying enough, it seems that everyone he encounters knows that a man named Tito is planning to “have it out with him” at dawn on Beacon Street. How do they know? Because the word on the street is that Winston is marked for his doom as “that dude in the white coat and pink carnation.” After extensive investigation and assorted misadventures, he discovers that he sold Tara “by mistake” into prostitution to an infamous pimp named Tito. The race is on to find Tara before the johns and the cops get to her first.

The script is hilarious, full of endless comical non-sequiturs and deux-ex-machinas. However, despite the exceedingly sordid subject matter, the film never really escapes G-rated territory and the boundaries of good taste. Lori Loughlin as Tara is gorgeous and charming, but it is Keanu Reeves’ performance as Winston that is truly a tour-de-force. For me, the touchstone of an excellent performance by a leading man is when I fervently wish that he was a real person so I could date him. Winston is so guileless, so genuine, so courageous, that I was truly sorry he was only fictional.

THE NIGHT BEFORE is different than the typical 80’s movie. Through the classic fish-out-of-water device, the film addresses prejudices of all kinds, from adolescent intolerance of nerds, to more serious forms of discrimination against the homeless and ethnic minorities. I love this film because it depicts an aspect of the decade which isn’t very glamorous, but it does so with such creativity, quirkiness, and good humor that it is stands alone in the history of 80’s films as something really special. When the end credits roll, it’s a wonder they even felt the need to include the disclaimer that “the characters and events depicted in this photoplay are fictitious.” For goodness sake, I certainly hope so! 4/5 stars.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

“Of course size matters! This is the 80's!"

Who wants to see a movie named after a popular brand of synthetic grass? Notwithstanding the poorly spelled title, TUFF TURF (1985) is a sleeper classic well worth a second look. The main appeal is the pleasure of seeing James Spader playing a good guy for once. After being typecast as the demonic prom-night villain, I was surprised to see how well he looks as the gallant, dashing leading man. His character's development is quite satisfying to observe. In the opening sequence, we discover that despite his pretty face, James Spader is a scary badass. He shoots massive cockroaches crawling around his room with cap guns, rides his bike around the schoolyard security guard in annoying circles, and rocks the leather-jacket-with-popped-collar like nobody's business. However, we later learn that he can also look strangely alluring sporting his Princess Di fringe cut, that he can lip-synch like an angel, and that he will let nothing come between him and his girl. The perfect man? I think so!

When Morgan's father loses his job in Connecticut, he must forget his cushy prepster lifestyle and adjust to a ghetto school in San Fernando. He tries to mind his own business, but Nick the local goon pisses him off by stealing his precious bike and getting it crushed by a car. Time for revenge! Morgan decides to mess with Nick by putting the moves on his pretty girlfriend Frankie. She has really long hair which looks awesome when she dances. However, her clothes are scandalous even by 80's standards. It's a wonder she can walk down the street without getting arrested. Anyway, when Morgan first cuts in at a dance club Frankie tries to resist, but he doesn’t take no for an answer. He wrangles her into his car and the mismatched pair fake their way into a lame country-club party. As an added bonus, Morgan's buddy Jimmy is played by a cute young Robert Downey Jr. with beestung pout and emo mascara. He really is adorable and funny as he dazzles the square girls at the country club.

There is an oddly moving scene where Morgan seats Frankie on a grand piano and sings her a ridiculous and nonsensical song called "I Walk The Night," whatever that means. Henceforth Frankie is smashed on him good and hard and doesn't like her old boyfriend anymore. They later dance in a club with scary psychedelic decor and a band of questionable coolness called Jack Mack & The Heart Attack. I wish I was kidding. They proceed to assail our ears with heinous lounge-lizard pseudo-jazz. Thankfully, this weak portion of the sountrack is more than balanced out by Marianne Faithfull's classically dark and passionate track, "Love Hates."

Frankie table-dances and cage-dances. Did I mention she's dressed like a streetwalker? And that this seems to be like the third dance they went to in the same night? That's okay though, because Morgan and Frankie are really cute and happy together and they are so in love. But then Nick and his homeboys find out about it and beat the crap out of Morgan in the locker room. This is just the beginning of the downward spiral of extreme danger, violence, and crime resulting from Frankie’s indiscretions, leading to the inevitable grand showdown between Morgan and Nick.

Their vendetta culminates with the longest, most outrageous knock 'em down, drag 'em out fight sequence I have ever seen on film. I mean this is one for the history books. It clocks in at almost 7 minutes but somehow it felt much longer, I guess because so much stuff happens. Morgan fights Nick and his whole gang of thugs in an abandoned warehouse almost single-handedly and pulverizes them. What makes it funny is that just when you thought Nick was finished, he gets up and comes back for more. By the end he actually climbs up Morgan's pants in agony, inch by inch, as Morgan coldly looks down at him before laying him flat with one last mega-punch. It's too hilarious and almost exhausting to watch.

This film does not break any new ground, but it has no pretensions at cinematic greatness either, and therein lays its triumph. It’s simply a rollicking good time with some laughs, some tears, some violence, some excellent dance sequences, and a happy ending. Also, James Spader makes a pretty darn nice good guy. 3/5 stars.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

“Welcome to St. Basil’s!”

I'll admit that I've never been a fan of Andrew McCarthy. In fact, I think Andie's choice of bland, spineless Blaine over Duckie may well be the most puzzling and unsatisfying conclusion in that whole decade of moviemaking. But in HEAVEN HELP US (1985), he more than makes up for that debacle. Here, McCarthy finally achieves a flawless balance between shy, sensitive and romantic in the role of Catholic schoolboy Michael Dunn. After the death of his parents, Michael must adjust to a difficult family life, with his overzealous grandparents pressuring him to enter the church, and a peculiar little sister who needs a lot of attention. If all that wasn't stressful enough, he struggles to fit in with the rough-and-tumble boys in his new school, win the affection of the tough chick at the soda fountain, and avoid the strap of sadistic Brother Constance in class.

The jokes are frequent, sharp, and often utterly outrageous, pushing the envelope of religious and social taboos, but never the boundary of good taste. But what elevates this film above the realm of the typical teen comedy is its courageous willingness to confront important issues with sincerity and compassion. It addresses serious questions of religious belief, corporeal punishment, mental health issues, the connection between religion and social class, and how to cope with family expectations. But it never veers off into maudlin or preachy territory, and you will probably not even notice how thoughtful this film is because you will be laughing too hard!

One of the biggest treats is the always luminous and lovely Mary Stuart Masterson, who plays Michael’s love interest Dani, the blue-collar counter girl. Even with virtually no wardrobe or hairstyle to work with here, Masterson turns in an impressive performance, her image glowing right out of the screen by virtue of spunk and spirit alone. I loved the way the romance between Michael and Dani was portrayed. There is nothing syrupy or soft-lit about these two, just a pure and sweet depth of feeling that I could realistically imagine lasting well into old age. In addition to the rest of the soundtrack which features a spirited potpourri of 50's pop hits, cheeky Celtic jigs, and classics of traditional liturgy, Michael and Dani have a single love scene which showcases a downright brilliant use of Otis Redding's tearjerker "I've Been Loving You Too Long."

Why has this gem of a film been so unfairly denied a place in the pantheon of 80's classics? I think the fact that it's a 60's period piece lacking contemporary fashion and music meant that it didn’t receive the right marketing or audience placement when it was released, and it simply fell through the cracks. In my opinion, it should still qualify under the 80’s genre, as it is an outstanding example of the 80’s ensemble teen cast aesthetic. Each of the characters holds up their corner of the plot so memorably, so uniquely, that I guarantee you will catch yourself giggling over their exploits long after the end credits have finished rolling.

Who can keep a straight face for the scene where Rooney examines the boys' lists of sins before confessional and performs his expert mathematical wizardry to reduce their penances? The always excellent Wallace Shawn makes an unforgettable cameo as a histrionic priest who gives the pre-dance sermon on the dangers of lust. But the comic zenith of the movie is probably when perverted altar-boy Williams is helping the priest give communion to the girls. There is not a strip of skin shown, but it may well be the bawdiest, raunchiest, and most hilarious scene ever!

Okay, so I don't want to completely wreck the film for you by enumerating every single scene. Then I would ruin all the surprises, and besides, there are simply too many to squeeze into a reasonably-sized movie review. So just go out and see it, already! This movie is as good as a modern-day miracle. 5/5 stars.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

"He's not just some guy, he's Bruno X!"

MODERN GIRLS (1986) has no direction, no moral lessons, no lasting impact, and nothing new to say. In that sense, it's kind of like life, if you think about it... which is what makes it awesome! Like a documentary of the misspent youth I never had, but wish I did. Three friends share an apartment in the glamorous party district of Los Angeles. During the day they work to make ends meet, but at night they live for the wild and exciting parties in the city's hottest clubs. Their nonstop debauch is interrupted one night when Kelly disappears with the car, at the same time that an annoying nerd named Clifford shows up looking for her at the apartment.

Margo and Cece trick him into driving them to the club, thus roping him into a series of improbable, dangerous, and exciting events. It's fascinating to watch the changing allegiances and relationships between the characters developing over the course of the night. The highs and lows, triumphs and defeats, follow such a natural and organic rhythm that the viewer can't help but get caught up in the aimless and meandering plot. Margo and Clifford turn out to be intense "frenemies" at first sight. Kelly is an unreliable stoner who finds herself in several tight spots and needs rescuing. Cece falls for the infamous rocker Bruno X and chases him all over town. Things are further complicated when it is discovered that Clifford bears an uncanny resemblance to Bruno X, and the gang must escape from passionate fans and angry music video producers. I did not realize that the same actor plays both Clifford and Bruno X until the film was over, so I guess I fit right into the target audience for this film.

What truly sets apart these throwaway films of the 80's and elevates them into the realm of classics is their flawless attention to detail. Just watch the hilarious method that the girls use to make coffee in the opening sequence, or the way the DJ refuses to take off his headphones while making out because "they help him concentrate." Even the "fake" songs sung by the fake rock star are sort of amazing! The club setting is the perfect showcase for a nonstop string of danceable hits with a lot of verve and edge. My favorites include "Iko Iko" by the Belle Stars and "No Promises" by Ice House. But the biggest highlight is Depeche Mode's haunting tune, "But Not Tonight." I have read that the band themselves do not like the song or the movie, which is really a shame! It's one of their best works and is used wonderfully throughout the film.

Behind all the wild hijinks is a strong undercurrent of melancholy angst. This story resonates with the experiences of many young people trying to find their way in the big city. All the cheesy bits and pieces come together perfectly to create a complete, sincere portrait of a certain time and place. And isn't that's what all great movies should do? It's a delightful film not to be missed. 4/5 stars.


(Images credited to Jenny at http://www.moderngirlsmovie.com/)