When I first moved to California in 1989, I remember my college friends talking about Wynona Ryder. One had an acting class with her, and the other was her walking partner at high-school graduation. (He was told to move out of the shot by some photographers, and was bitter about it.) When I see her in a movie, I’m always oddly aware that she’s my age.
Imagine my horror last year when I saw her in the Star Trek movie as Spock’s mom. She was covered in makeup, but still. Sheesh! Then, I see Black Swan where she is described as old and washed up. For all I know, ballet dancers are considered old at 15. I still felt the hit.
For me, the worst bit about aging is the realization that there’s no way around it. I’m getting old, dammit. I can deny it as much as I would like by avoiding super close looks in the mirror, but when I see an young actor from the 80’s/90’s looking borderline haggard it kills me a little.
In an attempt to recapture my youth, I took a look at one of my favorite movies from when I was 12 – Valley Girl.
At first, Valley Girl would seem like a terrible choice for someone who doesn’t want to be reminded of how people are aging. My logic here was that when I was 12, this movie genre was totally new to me. Everything about it was original according to my young self. Of course, this plot has been done a million times before and since. I just had the pleasure of not knowing that yet.
Plot: Classic teenage romance. Boy who is different in some way that makes him mysterious/dangerous, falls in love with a perfectly normal slightly above average looking girl, they overcome the obstacles keeping them apart and end up together by the end of the movie.
Like any 80’s movie this one opens with a shot of the mall and a montage. A purchase adds up to $192.95! I saw the same exact stuff at Urban Outfitters last week and one of those keyboard tank tops would set you back that amount at least.
Next, the beach and our first look at Nicolas Cage. I really hate to admit it, but I had an enormous crush on him in this movie. He listens to punk music like the Plimsouls (I know, not punk but I was 12 and didn’t know any better), he had great hair and he showed how much he cared by pretty much stalking her in a bathroom. Later, he stalks her again to prove his love. Don’t worry, stalking is perfectly fine in romantic comedies as long as it’s done by the cute boy.
Then, a series of even more montages begin to show how insanely different these two really are. He’s from the streets! He drives an ugly car! He seems to know every person on the street and yells at them to prove this. She’s from the Valley! She likes to shop! She attends slumber parties and dances around in her underpants. This relationship is DOOMED! How can they ever find common ground? Well, they make out for 12 hours. That’s how.
Friends conspire to break them apart, but true love can’t be stopped. Especially when he amps up the stalking. He takes her ticket at the movie theater! He delivers her food in a restaurant! He breaks into her prom and starts a food fight! Turns out, the stalking pays off again and they ride off into the night in the back of a stolen limo to the strains of “I Melt With You”.
Flash forward time. “I Melt With You” has been used to sell burgers. Nicolas Cage starred in Face/Off. Everyone else in the movie disappeared off the face of the Earth. Getting stalked in real life sucks. But that’s all the stuff that older me brings with me when I watch it. In that way, the movie can’t possibly hold up.
However, if I could see it with 12 year old eyes it would be a different experience entirely.