The long-delayed Valley Girl remake will hit VOD next month. Directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg, the new version features musical elements and stars Jessica Rothe and Josh Whitehouse as star-crossed lovers. As you’ll see from the trailer, the remake has a strong ‘80s jukebox aesthetic and pays tribute to its 1983 source material. But it’s going to take something special to capture a similar kind of magic. The original Valley Girl is a perfect teen movie.
One of the most quintessentially ‘80s movies ever made, Martha Coolidge‘s Valley Girl tells the story of Julie (Deborah Foreman) and Randy (Nicolas Cage), a pair of opposites who fall for each other in Southern California. She’s comfortably middle class, loves to shop, and listens to New Wave music. He’s a punk rocker from the other side of the tracks, and Julie’s uppity friends don’t approve. Think Romeo and Juliet, only with better haircuts and an awesome soundtrack featuring songs like Modern English’s “I Melt With You.”
Music is a big part of Valley Girl, so it’s unsurprising that the new take is a musical. The original was originally conceived as an exploitation movie that aimed to capitalize on the fad of films named after novelty songs. In this case, the filmmakers were inspired by Frank Zappa’s 1982 hit of the name that featured his daughter, Moon. Zappa even tried to sue the producers and stop the film from being made, but he was unsuccessful. And since the movie is much better than the song, the court made the right decision.
While Valley Girl was originally supposed to be an exploitation movie, the film took on a new life when it entered production. Basically, the financial backers were surprised to discover that the script had substance and emotion. Valley Girl is a funny movie that features many of the hallmarks of teen comedies from its era — people having sex, outlandish fashion, hip music — but there’s an underlying emotional honesty to the movie that’s bound to resonate with anyone who’s ever been a teenager.
Opposites-attract love stories are a dime a dozen, especially in the teen comedy genre. Valley Girl isn’t groundbreaking in that regard, but this tale of unlikely love is genuinely tender and heartfelt, and there are some moments that dip into heartache with a dramatic punch. All in all, it’s a feel-good affair with an abundance of charm, but the film is far from superficial.
Valley Girl explores themes such as sex, peer pressure, identity, and class with sensitivity and nuance. No one is perfect, but find one teenager — or person — who is. These rascals make mistakes and fall for the wrong people, but that’s what makes them interesting. They are also stuck between the allure of social acceptability and embracing their individuality, but that’s high school life in a nutshell for some folks.
Furthermore, the protagonists subvert typical teen movie archetypes. In another movie, Julie could have been presented as a ditzy stereotype who falls for a bad boy. Here, though, she’s flawed, self-analytical, and interesting. Randy, meanwhile, isn’t really a bad boy. He’s sensitive, nice, and doesn’t look for trouble, even though it finds him occasionally.
While Valley Girl lifted its title from a Zappa song, the film’s core messages couldn’t be more different from it. The song pokes fun at valley girls and presents them as one-dimensional stereotypes. Coolidge’s film, on the other hand, turns them into human beings with some depth. Cage originally wasn’t interested in the role because he hated valley girls in high school, but the director swayed him by convincing the young actor of the film’s deeper meaning.
That said, the film doesn’t just portray valley girls in a different light. It does the same for punks and middle-class parents, too. Julie’s mom and dad are still Woodstock hippies at heart, and they’re actually supportive of her relationship with Randy. Teen movie parents tend to be more conservative and not big fans of punks, but Julie’s folks are pretty cool.
It’s the little subtleties that make Valley Girl so special. At the same time, if you’re looking for a movie that’s funny and unabashedly of its era, then look no further. This is the definitive New Wave movie, but it’s a New Wave movie with a rebellious punk rock attitude. The remake looks much more polished and sparkly, but the original is rough around the edges and all the more endearing for it.
MGM just released the original Valley Girl to rent and buy from digital platforms for the first time ever this week. The musical adaptation, as the remake is being labeled, arrives on VOD from Orion Classics on May 8th.