Rachel Lee Goldenberg’s remake of the 1983 rom-com is a light, airy work of kitsch that’s easy to fall into.
The last few months more than ever, uncertainty rules the world we live in. During quarantine, a virus seeps itself into every facet of our lives, gluing most of us to terrifying news headlines and trying to figure out how to make our own bread. It’s in these times that comfort media is needed most, and Valley Girl has come to fill that gap.
A jukebox musical reboot of an eighties rom-com, Valley Girl at first seems like a punchline for a hacky “too many Hollywood reboots” joke. It both is a needless remake and an utterly unhinged version of the jukebox musical. Songs start seemingly at random, having no bearing on the story or even the emotions of the characters. There is no logic here. There are only leg warmers and ‘80s pop.
Alicia Silverstone and Jessica Rothe play the titular character, Julie, in a dual role. Silverstone plays a grown up Julie, telling her daughter the story of her first great love, punk musician Randy (Josh Whitehouse). Rothe, on the other hand, plays a teenage Julie. She commits fully to her part, doing the impossible by believably saying “tripindicular” (which I am still not entirely sure the definition of). Silverstone and Rothe work together to paint the only real person in the piece, making it clear that this isn’t the reality that happened, but instead the emotional reality of Julie during these events.
Through a combination of Adam Silver’s kinetic camerawork and Rachel Lee Goldenberg’s direction, the film feels like a dream version of 1980s mall commercials. Silver’s camera never stops moving, bringing in shades of Flashdance and Footloose. Goldenberg sets up her actors to be archetypes by design, knowing that this is what is expected of this film. This is not a bad thing, but rather it shows a deft understanding of tone. The film Goldenberg has made is a brainless soufflé: it’s light and airy and it doesn’t make sense, but if anyone makes a wrong step, everything collapses.
Most of the comedy comes from supporting parts performed by comedy veterans Rob Huebel, Judy Greer, and Nicole Byer. Huebel and Greer play Julie’s parents. Huebel dials in as a solid goofy dad, planning on investing in Commodore and failing to be a convincing authority figure. Greer, flawless as she always is, is hilarious as a spacy, horny housewife, both upsetting and stone serious, painting a future version of the mother that Julie will grow up to be. Byer, on the other hand, steals her scene, playing the announcer of a local roller-skating rink in the only musical scene that makes a lick of sense.
Goldenberg sets up her actors to be archetypes by design, knowing that this is what is expected of this film. This is not a bad thing, but rather it shows a deft understanding of tone.
But the most shocking and shining part of the film is Mickey (Logan Paul), the tennis star jock that Julie leaves to be with her punk rocker beau. Paul, a YouTube star known for his frat boy looks and numerous online controversies, is the most dialed in of all the “teen” performances. Playing the one-note ‘80s jock, he succeeds both in looking the part and fully committing to the part of a meathead, scoring laughs (and thankfully not doing any singing). Used perfectly by his director, Paul has a real future as a villainous Baxter archetype.
Yes, Valley Girl is uneven in its story logic, but that doesn’t matter. Goldenberg’s understanding of tone and kitsch save the film from being a one-note wonder and transform it into a demented hour and 45 minutes of pop songs and teenage emotions. It isn’t a great work of art, but in the world we live in, it’s the movie we need right now.
Valley Girl is now lighting up VOD.