The Tao of Nicolas Cage: Valley Girl

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Nic Cage stops the world and America melts with him.

“No one is gonna tell me who I can score with! Now I want this chick, she wants me, so fuck it, we’re goin’ back.”

On Friday, April 29, 1983 the world of cinema was forever changed. Heading into that weekend Flashdance and Tootsie had rained supreme. Tootsie was entering its 20th week at the top of the box office charts while Flashdance was working on its third. While those two classics prepared to duke it out once more they also had to deal with a major studio release in Something Wicked This Way Comes and the star power of David Bowie in The Hunger.

When the weekend came to a close and all the tickets had been counted Flashdance was declared the winner for the second week in a row bringing in just over $4 million. Something Wicked This Way Comes racked up a respectable $2.4 million earning a second place finish while Tootsie added another $1.9 million for third and Bowie & company managed to scoop up $1.8 million and the fifth spot. It’s that film that came in fourth that was the game changer. A little film known as Valley Girl.

Much like Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Hunger, Valley Girl was a new film hitting theaters for the first time that weekend. Unlike those films, however, Valley Girl wasn’t a major release from a big studio and it didn’t star a musical icon beloved the world over. This was a film made on a fairly minuscule budget of $350,000, directed by a woman and starring a young cast of unknown actors. While the other films in the top five that week opened in 750+ theaters each, Valley Girl opened in just over 400. Valley Girl made the best of its smaller opening bringing in an average of $4,200 per theater, easily tops for the weekend.

It may not have been realized at the time, but Valley Girl was about to have an impact that would be far greater than that impressive and surprising opening weekend.

Nicolas Cage stars as Randy, a young new wave punk from Hollywood. While at the beach one day he catches the eye of Valley girl Julie (Deborah Foreman). Later that evening Randy decides to crash a party in the Valley with his best friend Fred (Cameron Dye) and he once agains runs into Julie. This time the two actually talk to one another and they immediately hit it off.

Tommy (Michael Bowen), a Valley jerk and Julie’s ex-boyfriend, catches the two chatting and gets extremely jealous. In a fit rage he attempts to sleep with Loryn (Elizabeth Daily), one of Julie’s best friends. Loryn almost gives in but eventually rejects Tommy which upsets him further. To prove he’s a real man he has a couple of goons kick Randy and Fred out of the party. But Randy will not be denied. He sneaks back into the party and convinces Julie to take off with him.

This is the beginning of a very unexpected relationship between Randy and Julie. They both come from entirely different worlds. Most Valley girls wouldn’t be caught dead with guys from Hollywood and those guys from Hollywood wouldn’t waste their time on some stuck up snob. Their friends may not understand it, but Randy and Julie are perfect for one another.

The fact that Valley Girl was made is kind of amazing. It being a great movie is an added bonus. As I mentioned up top the budget was a mere $350,000. Not a single actor had done anything of note prior. The film’s director, Martha Coolidge, had yet to direct a feature length narrative. The producers were just hoping to make a quick buck cashing in on the new wave craze of the early 80’s. The result was a box office smash that greatly helped shape the Hollywood landscape for the next decade plus.

The final box office tally for Valley Girl was $17.3 million, which equates to roughly 50 times the film’s budget. That’s incredible. It’s one of only two films directed by a woman to finish in the top 50 at the box office in 1983, the other being Barbara Streisand’s Yentl – this fact alone is worthy of its very own discussion piece. For the purposes of this column however, the most significant thing about Valley Girl is that it launched the career of Nicolas Cage.

Cage is terrific in the film. Right off the bat it’s clear that we’re watching the birth of a star. Cage is in complete control every time he’s on screen, he demands the audience’s attention. A reason why he excels so much is because Cage is Randy. This is a film about a weirdo outsider and when you need a weirdo outsider there’s no one better than Cage.

Plenty of what we now know as Cage signatures are on full display throughout the film. The most obvious being his hair, which is pretty wild – at least two those living in the Valley. Over the years Cage has developed a reputation for having odd hairstyles. Well, that’s nothing new people, he’s been doing it since day one!

The film also delivers some solid Cage freak-outs. I remember the first time I watched Valley Girl and I was expecting more of a subdued Cage. Nope. He’s been on 11 since the jump. The most memorable Cage freak-out comes in a break-up scene between Randy and Julie. Basically Julie lets the opinion of her friends sway her and tells Randy they can’t see each other anymore. Naturally Randy is not pleased and as he storms off he shouts, “Well fuck you, for sure, like totally!”

This bit of dialogue is amazing because Randy is mocking the way girls from the Valley speak. But it gets better.

A few years back Kevin Smith hosted a screening of Valley Girl with a number of cast members in attendance including Foreman and Coolidge. A Q&A session followed after that was released as a podcast. During that podcast Foreman and Coolidge confirmed that Cage ad-libbed that line.

“Well fuck you, for sure, like totally,” is a Cage original! How great is that? In his first film he absolutely nailed an ad-lib that is perfectly fitting for his character and the scene. Genius.

In many ways Cage’s Randy foreshadowed the career Cage would build. Randy doesn’t give a shit about what others think about him. He always does his own thing. He doesn’t care if you agree with it, he doesn’t care if you like it. He’s going to do what he wants and he has no plans of fitting into any box. Everything that applies to Randy in Valley Girl also applies to the actor Cage is today.

In one of the film’s first scenes Randy is kicked out of a party by the cool kids. But that doesn’t keep him out of the party. How many times has Cage been “kicked out” of Hollywood? People on the internet write him off all the time and he just keeps coming back. And he’s always going to keep coming back. They couldn’t keep Randy out of the party and they can’t keep Cage out either.

It’s no secret that I’m biased when it comes to Cage and his movies. I mean I write about the guy weekly! And as such that means that I do like a lot of his movies that are generally considered to be bad. So if you were to tell me that you don’t like one of his movies that fall into that “generally bad” category I wouldn’t argue. Ok, I’d argue but I’d respect your opinion or whatever. With that said there are two Nicolas Cage movies that I won’t let anyone speak poorly of one. One is Raising Arizona and the other is Valley Girl.

When it comes to Valley Girl I can’t understand how anyone could possibly dislike it. Like how do you function in society? This is the best 80’s movie of all time! And I don’t mean it’s the best movie made in the 80’s, but it is the best representation of like totally awesome 80’s movies.

This is a movie that features the best date montage is the history of date montages. And the soundtrack is incredible. Josie Cotton, Men At Work, Modern English and more. What’s not to like?

To date I’ve never met a single person that has watched Valley Girl and disliked it. And that’s good. If you are the one person who dislikes Valley Girl for some reason, don’t talk to me. I won’t like you.

The film is basically perfect. Cage is super cool, Foreman is superb as the leading lady and love interest, Bowen has that punchable face that all Val dudes had and the early 80’s Los Angeles setting is vibrant, bringing the entire film to life. Valley Girl is just like tripendicular, ya know?

Sadly there is a major issue when it comes to this Cage classic – it’s not available on Blu-ray. Why that is, I don’t understand. This is a piece of cinematic history that should be widely available on the best home video format there is. And yet it’s not.

So this is my plea to MGM or whoever owns the rights to Valley Girl – Please release this movie on Blu-ray. I beg of you. We need this. And do it right. Port over the commentary track from the DVD and try and record a new one, possibly with Cage this time. Or let me do a commentary, that would be cool. Just get the movie out there. People will buy it. I’ll buy ten copies at least!

I’ve created a petition for ‘MGM or Whoever Owns the Rights to Valley GirlValley Girl Needs a Blu-ray!’ Please sign it and pass it around. If we band together we can right this terrible wrong. And that would be totally bitchin’.

My name is Chris Coffel and I usually write about Nicolas Cage. When I'm not writing about Nicolas Cage I'm usually thinking about writing about Nicolas Cage.