In the middle of a pandemic, Amy Talkington offers a breath of fresh air with a vibrant new look at Valley Girl, transforming the teen rom-com into a musical extravaganza.
By John Lavitt
Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 06/01/20 – The 2020 remake of Valley Girl is an ideal way to escape the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic. A fun, breezy musical romantic comedy taken right out of a jukebox from the 1980s, Valley Girl, stars Jessica Rothe and Josh Whitehouse as the ultimate Valley Girl Julie and the hard-edged Hollywood Punk Randy. These two love-torn roles were originally immortalized by Deborah Foreman and a young Nicolas Cage in the 1983 Martha Coolidge classic. As reimagined by screenwriter Amy Talkington, a talented filmmaker who wrote and directed the comedy-drama, Night of the White Pants (2006), the new take on the old classic overflows with positive energy.
In an exclusive interview with The Hollywood Times, Amy Talkington discusses the film’s long journey from the original conception of the remake almost twelve years ago to the recent release on streaming platforms. Like so many other filmmakers, the movie’s whole creative team, including director Rachel Lee Goldenberg, were disappointed that the COVID-19 crisis prevented the theatrical release of Valley Girl. However, they were thrilled that people could use modern streaming platforms like Amazon Prime, Google Play, and iTunes to rent the movie. At the same time, the film also was available to be seen at selected drive-in theatres across the nation. In a time of crisis, we all have to do the best we can.
When asked what she hoped Valley Girl could achieve during this challenging period, Amy Talkington said, “First, I hope the film can be a bright burst of joy, a fun experience for the whole family that provides an entertaining distraction from what’s going on in the world. Secondly, my deeper hope is that the film can open a dialogue between parents and their kids about what life was like when they were growing up. Hopefully, this time together will allow them to reveal experiences from their past that haven’t come up before. It could be an opportunity to share those eye-opening experiences and convey the lessons that they learned in the process.”
One of the best devices that Amy Talkington employs in the film is a present-day back and forth between her daughter, Ruby (Camila Morrone), and her mom, Julie (Alicia Silverstone), the grown-up version of Jessica Rothe’s Julie. The bookends of mother and daughter talking about Julie’s past experiences and how they apply to Ruby’s current struggles helps to elevate Valley Girl’s story. Although the musical numbers throughout are light and breezy, the framing device provides a deeper level of meaning. Although hesitant at first to hear about her mother’s past, Ruby becomes more excited and intrigued as she delves into the details. Like the audience, Ruby is captured by the story web so intricately woven by Amy Talkington.
The exciting back and forth between mother and daughter brings out another theme that was crucial to Amy Talkington in the retelling of the story. The creative empowerment of the two main characters is a key to their love story: Julie is passionate about fashion design, and Randy is passionate about making music. As Amy Talkington explains, “The love story in this version is not just about love. The interaction between Julie and Randy leads to an opening up of their world views and a discovery of their creative selves. Both Julie and Randy are a little suffocated by their worlds: Julie in the Valley and Randy in Hollywood. Being together, they challenge each other, take risks and, ultimately, find their creative voices.”
This key element is best expressed in the narrative during the prom scene at the end. Despite being pressured to wear a certain kind of prom dress, Julie goes her own way and makes a dress that expresses her creative vision. Later, breaking into the prom, Randy reveals the revolutionary love song that he’s written for Julie, a song that has helped him to discover his voice as a songwriter and musician. When you venture beyond the smiles and sneak in between the songs, the more profound meaning sought by the creative team is realized in this thoroughly enjoyable family film. Most importantly, Valley Girl is a whole lot of fun.