Directed by: Rachel Lee Goldenberg
Written by: Amy Talkington
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Josh Whitehouse, Mae Whitman, Judy Greer, Logan Paul
Geographically created lines separate people by area and therefore by culture as those different pockets create their own identity and at times can be hostile to neighboring but different ones. It makes for different personalities, ways of life, and overall attitudes. This, however, does not necessarily mean love cannot be found with these opposing viewpoints just as Valley Girl seeks to lay out in an 80s explosion of color and exuberance.
Julie (Jessica Roethe) lives in Encino, Los Angeles, also known as the Valley, and spends most of her time shopping with her friends at the mall. Through pure happenstance, she meets downtown Los Angeles miscreant, Randy (Josh Whitehouse) and they strike up an affection for one another as their warring sides seek to wake them up to their senses.
As an east coast individual, the different divisions in Los Angeles have proven to be foreign to my knowledge, which this film provides some insight into. Valley Girl, as a term, has been said aplenty but the reference never really got nailed down until watching this bright and poppy feature. This story gets presented with the framework of an older Julie, portrayed by Alicia Silverstone, explaining to her daughter that she used to be fun and tells a tale about her youth. This Princess Bride-style of storytelling works as it cuts back from the story of the 80s to the pair sitting on the couch. Her daughter begins with doubt the story will provide any entertainment then becomes enthralled as it continues.
The deep dive into the 80s displays exactly what type of film Valley Girl wants to become, which is a jukebox musical using songs anyone who has any remote ties to popular culture would recognize. Even as someone who does not particularly care for the re-emergence of 80s culture taking over contemporary popular art, every song proved to be distinguishable and I even knew the lyrics too, which falls right in line with what this film wanted to achieve. It presents a vomit-inducing level of brightness and sweetness to its story that despite its faults, makes for an enjoyable movie with plenty of heart. The story brings together two people from very different cultures, who despite their differences, find plenty between each other to care for. With them coming together, they have to contend with their warring sides, but what’s love without a bit of challenge?
Whenever they’re not breaking out into song, the film focuses on Julie’s progression as she does not find the Valley lifestyle as something to consume everything she does. She dates the most popular guy in school Mickey (Logan Paul) and has her life laid out for her like all of her friends to attend Cal State Northridge. Everything has been predetermined for her, but meeting Randy changes everything in a positive manner, as embracing a different perspective allows her to establish her own as a result. A quick aside, it’s also pretty funny that Mickey cements himself as the most popular and athletic person at their school as a golfer. Not a sport typically used to convey someone’s toughness but it really comes with the territory of what gets considered a popular athlete in the valley.
Narratively, the story follows beats we’ve all seen before but it all becomes about the infusion of 80s lingo, art, and aesthetics in combination with its charming lead performance. Making her splash with Happy Death Day, Jessica Rothe has proven she can be a star and she does some good work in this role. She has this uncanny ability to be 32 years old and perfectly portrays a 17-year-old. If you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what I mean and she fully embraces the amazement of the new world Randy shows her in a meaningful way. As an anchor to the film, she allows all of the 80s zaniness to flow through her as she measures up in all of the dance routines. The lip-syncing on the other hand is a different story, where it became painfully clear the voices heard in the songs were not coming from the actors on screen. Even the best musicals use lip-syncing but they have a certain level of believability that the lyrics are coming out of the mouths of the actors, but not so much here.
Plenty of bright and poppy fun, Valley Girl tells a familiar story with plenty of style and with a lead character worth following as she learns to blaze her own path in life. It gives Jessica Rothe another opportunity to take the stage as a lead actor and does not squander the opportunity. With this film, she proves to have the ability to carry movies of different genres and becomes the main reason to check this one out other than if you need a fix of the 80s amongst the deluge out there today.