In 1982, oddball musician Frank Zappa along with his daughter Moon Unit Zappa scored a big hit with their single “Valley Girl.” Basically, the song featured the slang often employed by young women in the San Fernando Valley just outside of Los Angeles, commonly known as The Valley. It was a novelty hit for Zappa, though the musician hated being referred to as a novelty musician, and eventually producers asked about making a movie based upon the song. Frank Zappa refused. That didn’t stop the production of Valley Girl, the 1983 romantic comedy from director Martha Coolidge and starring Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman. Living up to his cantankerous reputation, Zappa sued to stop production but lost. In the years since, Valley Girl has built up a cult following and now arrives on Blu-ray with a new special edition from Shout! Factory. This latest edition of Valley Girl is, like, totally awesome.
Julie (Foreman) is from The Valley. She’s got it going on with blonde hair and good looks as well as the hunky boyfriend Tommy (Michael Bowen). Julie goes to the mall with her trio of friends Loryn (Elizabeth Daly), Stacey (Heidi Holicker), and Suzi (Michelle Meyrink). Beneath the radiant exterior, though, Julie is looking for something different. She breaks up with Tommy, much to his surprise. Later that evening at a party, Julie meets Randy (Cage), a punk rocker from Hollywood. What starts out as an idyllic whirlwind romance soon takes a turn as Tommy schemes against the new couple, turning Julie’s friends against her and her new beau.
There’s more to Valley Girl than just a teenage romance in the neighborhoods of Southern California. The film’s screenplay by Andrew Lane and Wayne Crawford really captures the way that certain neighborhoods seem to judge one another with little or no interaction with each other, something extremely common in Southern California. Then there’s the subplot about Suzi’s stepmom Beth (Lee Purcell) and her attempts to lure a young man, Skip (David Ensor), into her bed. It creates a twisted little love triangle that strains an already tenuous relationship between stepmom and stepdaughter. Amidst all the relationship drama of Valley Girl are Julie’s parents, Steve (Frederic Forrest) and Sarah Richman (Colleen Camp). They run a health food store but they’re such a refreshing change of pace from the typical parents in this style of a teenage film. They’re caring and understanding, supportive of their daughter when she’s weary and needs comfort.
The unique vernacular that Zappa gave national attention to in his hit novelty song comes to life in Valley Girl, but the dialogue crafted by Lane and Crawford is able to maintain an undercurrent of universal teenage emotions of angst and restlessness that it transcends the simple novelty of Zappa’s single. Yes, much of what these teenage girls discuss can be frivolous, such as shopping and teenage crushes, but they’re also just entering a stage of maturity that sees them dealing with love and loss for the first time, and director Martha Coolidge brings out the emotions from the page through her young cast, lending the film a certain level of credibility rare for its genre.
Another star of Valley Girl is the film’s ‘80s soundtrack. The music of the film features hits from the ‘80as well as some lesser known tracks from the Reagan Era. The band The Plimsouls perform at a punk club that Randy takes Julie to, a club that was at the time called The Central before being bought years later by Johnny Depp a renamed The Viper Room. At the film’s big climax at prom, Josie Cotton appears to perform her hit song “Johnny, Are You Queer?” before a bunch of anxious teenagers. Other bands to have their music featured in Valley Girl include The Psychedelic Furs, Modern English, Men at Work, and two songs by Sparks (a personal favorite of mine).
Valley Girl has endured and continues to endure because it captures the feel of a bygone time and a unique locale with its own dialect. More importantly, the core of the film is universal, the struggle of fitting in with your friends and finding that first spark of love. As expected, the latest Shout! Factory edition features numerous special features, including interviews old and new as well as featurettes that examine the making of the film and culture of The Valley that inspired the film. Valley Girl is, like, a totally awesome movie that finally got its, like, totally awesome Blu-ray.
A cult classic featuring a very young Nicolas Cage, Valley Girl is a quintessential ’80s teenage romantic comedy, featuring unique vernacular and a soundtrack of ’80s hits.