(On Some Recommendable Films through the Decades) 1980s: Valley Girl (1983)
In the previous issues, I’ve recommended quintessential ’80s-released youth-oriented movies such as Some Kind of Wonderful, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. While these films have helped describe coming-of-age relationships and youthful adventures set in commercial USA in the 1980s, they were not all. There remain so many films of the same genre and theme that have memorable plots, characters, and soundtracks. Another personal favorite from this genre that I have seen more than a dozen of times is Valley Girl.
Released in 1983, Valley Girl stars a very young Nicolas Cage (Randy), who plays a downtown New Waver who falls for the character of Deborah Foreman (Julie Richman), a “valley girl” whom he exchanged affectionate glances with at a beach. However, despite the mutual attraction that both feel for each other, there are a few complications—Julie is just fresh from a breakup from her arrogant boyfriend, Tommy (Michael Bowen), who wants to have her back, and her friends do not approve of Randy because of his weird hairstyle and clothes. Nevertheless, the casual fondness between the two blossoms into a sort of a Romeo-and-Juliet romance, amidst the constant pressure of her friends to get back with Tommy. Luckily, Julie’s parents are also cool like Randy, with her father’s having been a hippie himself back in his ’60s youth, so Julie’s perspective is obviously more open than that of her friends. After losing Julie to Tommy because of peer pressure, Randy’s best friend, Fred (Cameron Dye), concocts a plan. They gatecrash into the junior prom of Julie’s school. While Julie and Tommy are being introduced as the prom king and queen, Randy confronts Tommy behind the stage and they engage in a fight. As soon as the curtain pulls back to reveal the king and queen, Randy knocks Tommy out. Julie is more than happy to end up with Randy after all. The two escape and head to a hotel and the movie ends with Modern English’s “I Melt with You” playing in the background. Other New Wave songs that featured prominently in the movie included “A Million Miles Away” (The Plimsouls), “Johnny, Are You Queer?” (Josie Cotton), and “Eyes of a Stranger” (The Payolas).
The most memorable part of the movie, for me, is that which showed a montage of Randy and Julie spending lovely evenings together on a backdrop of the entirety of “I Melt with You.”
The Last Leaf
Valley Girl was directed and primarily written by Martha Coolidge, whose other noteworthy films include the youth-oriented comedy Real Genius (1985), starring Val Kilmer and Gabriel Jarret; and the drama Rambling Rose (1991), starring Laura Dern and Robert Duvall.
The term valley girls referred to a stereotypical class of affluent young women living in the early ’80s San Fernando Valley of southern California described to be more interested in shopping, personal, and social status than in intellectual development or personal accomplishment.