Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Don't Let the Name Fool You

I rewatched "Little Darlings" a few weeks back and realized something: It is a fucking great movie.

How I came about rewatching it involved reading about a potential remake, and then wanting to see the original movie again, but only in its 2.35:1 widescreen format, which seemed to be near impossible since it hasn't been released on DVD, most likely because of music rights. (VHS copies don't, for instance, include John Lennon's great "Oh My Love," and replace it with some generic crap.) But Amazon has it available as a VOD, so I downloaded it to my TiVo in the hopes it would be widescreen, and have the original songs. And it does! Alas, it is only available as a 24-hour rental, and it's copy protected, so I couldn't burn a DVD copy for myself. Sad face.

The movie was released in 1980, and I know I saw it in a theater with some friends. I can hardly believe I was only ten years old when I saw it, but no other scenario makes sense to me...I have memories of the theater being on Clement street, so perhaps it was a revival house and it was few years later?

ANYHOO, I know I loved it at the time, and would watch it again and again for years whenever it was on cable. Perhaps some would scoff at the idea of a preteen watching a movie about girls competing to loose their virginity, but the great thing about the movie is that while the subject matter is salacious, there's really nothing overtly sexual in it. There's no female nudity, for one thing, and that's a clear indication that the movie had no intention of being a titillating teen sex comedy. (There is a brief--and entirely unrealistic--bit of male nudity, seen from afar, when the girls spy on the boys camp and find a big group of them skinny dipping. Because boys love to swim naked together? I guess?)

I was also kind of shocked to realize how good Kristy McNicol is in it. There's a moment near the end where she tries to hold back tears, and fails, that is really some high-caliber stuff for a movie like this. I'm including it here, but be warned, it contains major spoilers. (Stay tuned after the scene for some bonus footage featuring Miranda Hobbes herself!)

Roger Ebert speaks of some of the film's phoniness, in particular the food fight scene, which he calls "awkwardly forced." But in watching the movie again, I genuinely laughed at that scene because, ironically, it felt so real. Yes, the scene itself is pretty contrived, but it is so obvious the two actresses are truly laughing in the moment, and few things makes me laugh harder than watching other people try to stifle their own laughter...

There will always be a special place in my heart for the summertime-set movies of my youth, but I think this one holds up better than something like, say, "Meatballs," (which, don't get me wrong, I loved to death when I was a kid), because there's some actual depth in there. It might seem silly to call something like "Little Darlings" a work of feminist cinema, but damn it, I'm gonna! It's about young women taking control of their own sexuality, for better or worse, and the movie itself is not about exploiting the actresses. Like I said, it's a fucking great movie.

Also? Young Matt Dillon. Enough said.

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