It is sometimes amazing what hype can do to a movie. It can elevate movies into levels of nearly-legendary status by people who probably haven’t seen it. This was one of those movies. For years I had heard that it was a very naughty movie, one of the naughtiest Hollywood ever produced to feature a young cast, so I hungrily searched for it. I was finally able to track down a copy and when I watched it, boy was I surprised! The story centers around two girls, one named Angel (Kristy McNichol) who is a tough street-kid living in a working-class family, and the other is Ferris (Tatum O’Neal), a rich spoiled brat. The two are off to join a summer camp, and they both share one thing in common: they are both desperate to lose their virginity. Telling them to put up or shut up, their bunkmates make a bet to see who will lose their virginity before the summer is over. Ferris will go after an attractive gym teacher, while Angel will go for a bad boy kid (Matt Dillon) who is staying in the boy’s side of the camp. Things will not go as they planned.
So I was kind of expecting an exploitation-type film about the worries of losing your virginity, something that I was glad I didn’t get considering every single actress looks like they’re not a day over fifteen. But don’t let it’s reputation fool you, this movie is a very thoughtful, very realistic look at teen sexuality in young women. The script is solid, making the characters and situations believable without falling over to sentimentality or hokey teenage puppy love. The main driving force, however, are the performances. First we have Tatum O’Neal playing the spoiled brat Ferris, and she plays it well, acting like a spoiled brat on the lookout for a new trophy. Armand Assante plays the gym teacher she is crushing on; I’ve personally never been a fan of Assante, but he’s able to handle himself well. Matt Dillon plays the typical ‘aw, schucks’ bad boy he was known for in his early films, like Over the Edge and My Bodyguard, and he does it well, so it’s no wonder he kept playing the role. However, the standout performance comes from Kristy McNichol, who adds a very realistic and layered performance without going the typical ‘bad girl’ route, and is much more mature than her age might imply. Her reactions when she loses her virginity are as good as acting gets. To quote Family Guy, “Please come back, we miss you!”
This movie would never get made today, simply because today sexuality is such a taboo, particularly when it comes to young women. Even if the film has no nudity and the sex scenes are off-screen, there is a lot of sex talk between the young girls. However, there’s nothing gratuitous about it. They also smoke, which would be a big no-no today. On a different note, the soundtrack features a lot of what was then ‘modern rock’ and features songs from cool bands like Blondie and Supertramp. If you want to see a very good drama film with excellent drama and realistic situations, I recommend this classic underrated gem from the eighties. You will not be disappointed.