I had never seen it before believe it or not. It is the movie that truly established the horrible stigma that the San Fernando Valley still suffers from today. It shows teenagers growing up in the Valley as spoiled, materialistic air-heads who judge everyone by their car or hairdo.
In other words, a classic coming-of-age tale where Julie, the hot blond who is slightly more enlightened than the gaggle of bumble-gum popping girls with ozone-killing big hair she runs around with, is forced to chose between Randy, a kid from Hollywood she met at the beach who didn’t act or dress or talk like her friends, played by Nicolas Cage doing a poor John Cusack imitation, and Tommy, a, like, totally tubular stud who is from the Valley and is like, only, super hot.
The movie was basically one long montage of Valley hangouts, half of which are no longer around. The main one being the Galleria, which is now a sterile outdoor mall and home to Warner Brothers Animation. Some other joints are still around, Du-Pars, Casa Vega, and Mel’s Drive-In, but they don’t strike me as happening teenage haunts anymore. In the future, if civilization disappears and the only artifact found by the aliens was this movie, you’d conclude that all we did all the time was eat hamburgers and fries every single day and used words like “tuberrific” to describe everything from a cute guy to a good grade on a test.
Needless to say, Randy is a real deep and sweet guy who grabs her arm violently and tells her he loves her in a real scary, stalkerish way once she breaks up with him, but this doesn’t frighten Julie as much as make her swoon for him. He sneaks into places that Julie shows up at, like a movie theater or a drive-thru restaurant, disguised as a worker and spills stuff on Tommy, her current preppy boyfriend, for Julie’s amusement. He dedicates a Culture Club song to her on the radio, which is frightening enough an act alone, but the more Randy acts like an obsessed freak the more her heart yearns to be with him. Julie’s only problem, as she explained to her health food nut of a father, was that Randy is “different”. I guess, he is supposed to be some kind of punk or something. Her father tells her that she will have to make up her own mind, which she describes as being a drag. Her father, in fact, pulls out a picture of himself as a hippie, and tells her looks don’t matter. You can tell he is pulling for the underdog, the misunderstood Punk.
That’s what is different and interesting about this rather typical teenage-love-overcoming-the-obstacles story. The objections come from her friends, not her parents; the teenagers are the ones who create this exclusive, judgmental environment. The parents are cool, 60’s types who don’t seem too concerned with Randy. In a strange subplot, one of the girl’s mother just wants to jump a teenage boy’s bones.
It’s the kids who are the uptight, narrow-minded, status-obsessed, controlling force in Julie’s privileged and “complicated” life.
In another funny moment from the 80’s, Julie’s parents owned a health food shop and restaurant, kinda like an old school Whole Foods I guess, with a diner portion. In one scene, Randy shows up while Julie is working and Julie is embarrassed, says the health food store is “so uncool. Why can’t they just own a Pizza Hut or something.”
This made me laugh tremendously and shows how much times have changed. In the modern day version of this story, Julie’s family would own a Pizza Hut, and she would be the health-conscious teenager who wishes they owned a health food store instead. Well, we may still be obsessed with clothes, cars, the way someone talks, and what part of town they’re from, but at least we’ve come this far, at least healthy food is cool.