Film Reviews

Valley Girl (1983) – Blu-ray Review

From Eureka Entertainment‘s Master of Cinema range is this release of the 1983 modern homage to Romeo and Juliet, Valley Girl. Julie (Deborah Foreman) is the kind natured valley girl of the title who meets Randy (Nic Cage) at a friend’s party after having just split from the less kind Tommy (Michael Bowen).

Her friends are less than keen on Randy as he fits less into the expectations they have for the type of man they should be involved with – and they think he is weird. Julie must decide between her heart and her friends’ preferences. That is about it for a fairly slight film that is innocently entertaining enough, yet more interesting as a time capsule both of early 80’s filmmaking, and of the world it is depicting, presented in a choice of LCPM dual mono or DTS 5.1. The film is a little soft in the picture, not looking particularly thoroughly restored, if at all, though the image is clean.

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Bonus features kick off with a commentary from director Martha Coolidge, that was recorded around 1999 and was included on prior home releases. This is a competent solo track, with very few long silences. This was only her second film and her first comedy, seven years after docudrama Not a Pretty Picture (based on an assault she experienced as a teenager, though not really discussed here). Talking about her time with Francis Ford Coppola‘s company American Zoetrope, she gives a potted history of how she got involved here, as well as how Nic Cage came to be attached. Topics include studio demands for nudity, the valley-speak of the film, how she conceived certain scenes, and how she chose the soundtrack. This is full of stories, all engaging, few that memorable, but it is a great track for fans of Coolidge and/or this film.

This is followed by a new audio track with Maya Montañez Smukler (author of Liberating Hollywood: Women Directors and the Feminist Reform of 1970s American Cinema) and Maria San Filippo (editor of Happily Ever After: Romantic Comedy in the Post-Romantic Age) – though this is in the promotional material only – they do not tell us who they are. There is a huge overlap with the director’s commentary, with the same stories of Martha working for Zoetrope, Nic Cage shaving his chest for the film, and stories of negotiating over number of topless scenes. There is a bit more historical context on feminist films of the time, but the majority of the commentary is scene-specific – though looking at the feminist credentials of the film. The two women have a decent chemistry, and they leave little dead air. Again, this is not a stand-out example, but it is decent value.

We then move on to a section of new interview recorded for this release. The first is just shy of 18 minutes of a new interview with Deborah Foreman. It is a talking head intercut over scenes from the film. It covers mainly her background from Texas, how she got into acting, and this film. She has a good memory, a friendly disposition about a time in her life that was pretty much an adventure she took in her stride, learning the vernacular and just adapting as she went.

This is followed by ‘Colleen Camp talks to Elijah Drenner about Valley Girl’ (Sarah from the film). This interview plays over the film, although stops at less than 30 minutes in, making this is an odd choice. Like Laurent Bouzereau, Elijah is primarily a content creator for home releases. This is a new extra as it is recorded after the death of Frederic Forrest, who she talks about a lot. Lots on her and Fred’s working methods and chemistry and the use of improvisation. Just a small note of criticism: there are no subtitles except over the film itself, and this is true of all the extras. This is disappointing, and inclusivity should be much higher up the list of priorities for distributors.

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‘Valley Girl in Conversation’ is a new 50-minute round table with Martha Coolidge, Heidi Hollicker and EG (Elizabeth) Daily discussing the film. The stories are starting to repeat by now (the breasts debate story yet again, though this is added to by EG Daily’s testimony of her unease). The sound does not quite synchronise with the lips, but it is an enjoyable conversation. The two actresses are facing Coolidge, making it feel like she is being interviewed, rather than a completely even conversation. For fans this is filled with stories, not all of them not in the commentary.

We then move to legacy extras from previous releases. Which is a large, time-consuming set. ‘Nicolas Cage and Martha Coolidge Talk Valley Girl’ is a twenty-minute-long chat from 2003, shot in SD and academy ratio. It feels a little like a VH1 interview, very dated, but they have good chemistry during the conversation, shot in The Viper Room. The overwhelming takeaway is they both reflect on what adds up to a lack of experience at the time, with Cage saying he really had no idea what he was doing or what methods to use to get to certain emotions. He has good memories of Coolidge’s direction and remembers a very key line that has stayed with him. Interesting chat about the veracity of acting, and whether it is make believe or a search for truth.

’20 Totally Tubular Years Later’ is 24 minutes on the 20th anniversary of the film, shot at the same time as the last extra, also in SD and academy ratio. Talking heads include Coolidge, producer Andrew Lane, writer Wayne Crawford, Nic Cage, Elizabeth Daily, Cameron Dye, Heidi Hollicker, Michael Bowen, Lee Purcell, Colleen Camp and Frederic Forrest. It is fine, if with a garish colour palette making it feel like an early nineties’ product. Far enough from the film to carry some weight, but near enough that memories are intact.

This is followed by the full sets of the interviews that were used to make it. ‘The Boys’ is 54 minutes of Cage, Bowen and Dye, and is overkill, in truth, as much of this was cut for a reason, but for completists it will be of interest .’The Girls’ is just under 48 minutes of the same for Daily, Hollicker and Coolidge. ‘The Parents’ is 43 minutes for Lee Purcell, Frederic Forrest, and Colleen Camp. ‘The Bands’ is just under an hour featuring DJ Richard Blade, musician Josie Cotton and Peter Case of The Plimsouls, discussing the music of time, and how the Valley differed from the country as a whole, with New Wave being the main musical interest, and this film moving Hollywood from such fare as Christopher Cross – overproduced ballads. ‘The Producers/Writers is a short set from Wayne Crawford and Andrew Lane. ‘The Music of Valley Girl’ at just under 16 minutes rounds off this set built from many of the same interviews. It is very repetitive.

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This exhaustive set is rounded out with two music videos (‘I Melt with You’ by Modern English and ‘A Million Miles Away’ by The Plimsouls), a storyboard comparison, comparing storyboards and script to final shots in split screen. A theatrical trailer completes the set. Alongside this is a massive, 57-page booklet, with a glossary of valley girl speak, and two essays – ‘Second Time Lucky: Nicolas Cage, Martha Coolidge and Valley Girl, by Alexandra Heller-Nicolas, and ‘It’s Your Fucking Friends, Right?: Valley Girl, Conformity and the Teen Movie in the 1980s’, by Craig Ian Mann.

This is a very full set for a deeply average film. It stands as a time capsule of a unique era, but it has dated poorly. Fans of the film, however, will know what they are getting from the main picture, and, for them this set would give anything they could ever they want: a full archive of features from previous releases, and some thoughtful insights as the main players look back after forty years. Recommended for fans; complete overkill for the casual viewer.

Valley Girl is out on Limited Edition Blu-ray on 18th September from Eureka Entertainment.

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