At some point in the past month or two, I DVR'd "Little Darlings", a movie that horrified me when it came out. I was five years younger than the girls in this movie, but even by their own age, I was far too much the Good Girl to be able to stand the thought of a whole movie about a bet over losing virginity.
And so, I've never actually seen "Little Darlings."
Watching it today, as a bright and gusty warm winter Sunday wears into evening, the sight of Kristy MacNicol in her opening scene, walking through her neighborhood in jeans and a jean jacket, smoking took me SLAM back to the Marlboro Country where I grew up. (My high school had a smoking area. For students.) I dressed like that, I had the little scowl like that, I had the fluffy hair that looked different every day.
This is one of those movies I enjoy because it looks real, not production designed. Matt Dillon looks so much like the real live boys I crushed on and hung out with, his youth is almost heartbreakingly gorgeous. The girls in camp look like we did - thick-haired, thin-haired, fat, babyfaced, dorky. Beautiful.
One of the great highlights of the story is Sunshine, the hippie child who defends virginity in the end - and is, hilariously, played by Cynthia Nixon (later famous for her long run in, of all things, Sex and the City). She's rather more likable here.
The emotions, as they come in "Little Darlings", are raw and tender and bear all the importance of youth and first-ness. It's both perfectly nostalgic for those of us Of A Certain Age and acutely immediate; the performances really are good.
I recently re-watched "Valley Girl" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", which also feature kids who look pretty much like we really did back then, and have a very particular feel that is specific not only to the time but to the movies of that period, which went in for a grimy sort of sexiness that has been lost, polished over and production designed and plastic surgerized out of all humanity.
Next up from the DVR: "Smile" - an earlier still peek into teenaged beauty pageants, where you can find Melanie Griffith, Anette O'Toole, and other stars in early roles. And Barbara Feldon, whom I wanted to be when I grew up when she showed up on my TV as Agent 99 in Get Smart.
Some of the details of films from the seventies and early eighties are shocking - the extreme ease of a guy who's been accused of sex with a student; the careless way sexually obsessed young boys stalk pageant girls; sex, and abortion, and the expectations we have now versus those in play decades ago. Some of the honesty is astonishing (the judges in "Smile" are both creepy and dead-on portrayals; the way kids who've been used badly deal with and consider sex; the gender roles).
I think I need to actually collect these movies, instead of parking copies/taking up space in the DVR. Will have to look on Amazon streaming or get them on blu-ray.