Girls, Boys and Sex at Summer Camp Little Darlings (1980)
The doldrums of winter are slowly melting away as spring is here, weather permitting. Spring is only a fad in most parts of the country, and a short one at that. Once it's gone, summer will be in full swing. You know what that means, right?
Movies about summer to watch in the comfort of our home cinemas during the sweltering summer months. Yeah, I still get outside once in a while and look around, get a little sun on my bald head, but "summer fun" to me is not passing out after mowing the grass every week.
Summer movies come in all shapes and sizes. Probably, the term "summer movie" has a different meaning for each of us. What I'm talking about here are movies that take place during the summer. (As opposed to "summer movies" that are released over the summer months.)
I recently found Little Darlings streaming. I have not seen it around since the glory days of the mom 'n pop video store days. The Paramount VHS was in nearly every shop in town for a time. I wondered if a Paramount DVD was available, or if some specialty label had released it on an extras heavy Blu-ray. Whatever I could find, I figured I'd pick it up.
To my horror, I found it available only from some, umm, "black market" retailers online. 1980's Little Darlings has not had a legit Stateside home video release since that Paramount VHS (and probably Betamax).
What?! It's not on DVD?! How? Why? I can't just buy it?! It's streaming... WHAT IF THEY TAKE IT OFF STREAMING???!!!
After that minor come-apart, I queued it up and settled in for an era of sexed-up teenage smokers and some of the most beautifully feathered hair since me in my prime, back in '83.
Kristy McNicol is Angel, a big city kid, and Tatum O'Neal is Ferris, a rich, private school kid. They are both new to summer camp, and both want to fit in while they act like they don't want to fit in.
Evidently, girls of a certain age, let us say, 15, tell lies to each other about having had sex to seem cool to other girls. I really thought only boys did that. When the girls in their cabin figure out both Angel and Ferris are virgins, they convince them to partake in a contest of "Let's see who can lose their virginity first this summer." Both agree.
Ferris sets her sights on older counselor Gary (Armand Assante) while Angel likes the look of Randy (Matt Dillon), from the boys' camp across the lake. (He looks like a drumstick with long hair.)
The other girls constantly pressure the two to engage with their targets, even though neither Ferris nor Angel know what they are doing. The contest rages all summer until there is a winner and a loser, but there is no clear winner or loser here.
I thought I had seen this movie before, or most of it, but I know now I never saw this film in its entirety. I may have seen some of it when it played on Broadcast TV, even though I have it in my mind that it was always on HBO. Again, it was in the comedy section of every video shop I stopped at in the 80s. Over the years I got it in my mind I'd seen it. I had little to no recollection of this movie as I watched.
I've always remembered and considered this movie as basically an early 80s Teen Sex Comedy. (Proof right there that I never saw it before.) Yes, it is about young teenage girls trying to lose their virginity, but it is a far cry from the crass, gross and exploitative comedies I instantly think of when I hear the phrase "80s Teen Sex Comedy."
I've always wondered why there were not more female horndog driven Teen Sex Comedies and Little Darlings is a perfect example of why that never happened.
So, first things first, yes, I know ladies like sexual gymnastics in the bedroom as much as gentlemen do. Women get horny and can make poor decisions regarding who they take to bed. But right from the beginning, there is a different attitude in how the material is presented from the female side because, along with being curious, scared and horny, young ladies bear the burden of responsibility. With sex comes responsibility, and girls know that.
The girls talk about "losing their virginity," and not just agonize about "getting laid." In most boy-centric Teen Sex Comedies, the guys combine that into, "If I don't get laid and lose my virginity this summer, I'll die!" Then, for the rest of the movie, the emphasis is on "getting laid."
There is a hysterical scene where the girls steal a bus, drive into town and break into a closed gas station's men's room to raid a condom machine. Sure, we've seen guys get condoms from the drugstore or gas station men's room plenty of times, but I never stopped to think that in 9 out of every 10 of those scenes, the guy is only doing it to keep the girl who is the object of his hanky and his panky happy. These girls are only 15 and they already know guys can be lazy slobs!
This movie is funny, yes, but it is not a Teen Sex Comedy. (Porky's cast the mold for those flicks when it made a ton of dough. Then every producer tried getting teens laid.) But it is also heartbreaking and bittersweet. We watch these girls try to grow up over one summer and it just twists our guts into a knot. It's hard to watch.
The most bittersweet moment is when the winner of the contest gets to the finish line and then says she's never felt so lonesome before in her entire life. Wow! That's devastating, man. That's a far cry from Pee Wee hanging out the bus window hooting and hollering, letting everyone know he got laid in Porky's. No, I'd say that Little Darlings captures a feeling most of us experienced right after "losing our virginity."
I believe what sets this apart is that it was written from a place of truth. The script by Kimi Peck and Darlene Young came from a slice of their lives, whether it was them or friends or whatever. I think there is a lot of truth here that only young ladies know about and completely understand. This is not a movie a man could have written, even if he grew up with nine sisters.
Was Ron Maxwell was the best choice as director? Per his IMDB filmography, there was nothing prior to this that said, "Hey Ron, I think you'd be perfect to direct this bittersweet coming of age movie about two teenage girls trying to become women." I don't know, maybe he grew up with nine sisters.
To think of what a young Amy Heckerling, Penelope Spheeris, Martha Coolidge or Amy Jones could have brought to this material knocks me over. We'd be talking about one of the great early 80s teen coming of age flicks. A lost opportunity.
The cast here can do no wrong. Obviously, O'Neal and McNicol are evenly matched. In fact, I had it in my head that the two of them had co-starred in a series of movies throughout the 80s, but this was the only one. That's how well they work together. Another lost opportunity.
The rest of the cast is equally terrific, especially a young Cynthia Nixon as mini-hippie girl Sunshine, Krista Errickson as Cinder and Abby Bluestone as Chubby, who steals nearly every scene she's in.
Because of music rights, Little Darlings is not on DVD or Blu-ray. That's what I can find. (Even a later VHS release had an altered soundtrack.) It has been reported that TCM has shown a widescreen theatrical print of the film in recent years. You can rent it on Prime and iTunes for a couple of bucks, but I don't know what version it is. I watched it via Hoopla, which is a streaming service provided by public libraries. I urge you to check your local library and see if they support Hoopla because a ton of films show up there when they are nowhere else and it's all free. (The Hoopla version is widescreen and I believe it's the theatrical version.)
If you have never seen this movie, I say check it out. It is a slice of coming-of-age cinema that celebrates friendship, and I put in a class with Breaking Away, Diner and Pretty in Pink.
These two young ladies made many a young boy of my generation put away our Star Wars toys, slap on some of Dad's rotgut aftershave (even though we didn't shave) and step up and become men.
Coming soon- It Came From Hollywood Book 4!!!
170-pages celebrating the best cinema offers! Features interviews with Luigi Cozzi (director of Star Crash and Hercules), Mirella D'Angelo (star of Hercules and Tenebre), Brett Kelly (Director of Galaxy Warriors and Ouija Shark) and Grady Hendrix and Chris Poggiali (authors of These Fists Break Bricks). Also, movies, books and soundtracks, Cooley High, Night of the Demon, Night Shift, Hollywood Docs look at Dawson City: Frozen Time, Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away, The Amityville Horror, Home Grown Horrors, VHS Spotlight shines a light on Hollywood Boulevard II, a massive New World Pictures Trade Ad Avalanche, the reprint of the Dawn of the Dead Press Book and more, more and more!