Mister Cinecal

Mister Cinecal

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Inside the Skeleton's Closet: Nicolas Cage in Valley Girl (1983)

The path to success as an actor is usually filled with roadblocks in the form of really, really terrible movies. Many actors have entries on their early C.V.s that they hope the world either forgets forever or, more likely, never hears of to begin with. Fortunately, in the bright shiny future of the Internet Age we live in, these failures remain forever on the record to be mocked by schmucks who want to feel better about themselves. Inside The Skeleton's Closet digs up the old shames of Hollywood's best and brightest and drags them over the coals. Because I do not forgive, I do not forget and I do not have anything better to do with my time.

Can anything Nicolas Cage does apply to this feature? There is a difficulty in mocking Nic Cage for making a bad choice in picking roles because we cannot say with any degree of certainty that there is any conscious choice being made on his part in choosing what movies to appear in. It seems more likely that he just shows up on the set of something like Drive Angry and everybody just goes with it because they're too afraid to just ask him to leave. He's an actor I've never been that fond of, because Internet memes aside, he's just phoning it in so frequently that I can never look forward to him being in something, and then the majority of the time he actually is making an effort, he's mugging outrageously in something that nobody's even going to see. Hate me if you want for saying it, but Con Air and Face/Off are rubbish and he's terrible in both. He was pretty good in Bad Lieutenant, I suppose he just needs a director who will fire a gun at his actors to reign him in/fire him up. Valley Girl sees Cage in his first starring role in a feature film and the first time he is billed as Nicolas Cage and not Nicolas Coppola. It is a movie from a simpler time, when the 'Valley Girl' was a thing, and people thought loud, annoying, self-interested teenagers could be contained in one area. The film is about one such girl, Julie Richman (ahahaha...I get it) falling for someone way outside her caste system, a punk! Nicolas Cage's chest hair is prominently featured! Hooray?

Why choose Nicolas Cage as a romantic character? His acting style, reminiscent of a spider's leg that's been ripped off and still twitches, is not something I can imagine general audiences projecting onto romantically and there are times when his approach to romance in this film makes it feel like it's going to turn into a secret prequel for Maniac. Crashing a party of young Hollywood yuppies, Cage meets and falls for Valley Girl Julie, who has just broken up with Tommy, because even though he's got a "hot bod" (one of a handful of slang used in this film that I could make any sense of whatsoever) he's too boring for her. He's also a possessive creep who (unbeknownst to Julie) coerces and then blackmails one of Julie's friends (Elizabeth Daily, ie the voice of Tommy from Rugrats, ie I have seen Tommy from Rugrats' breasts). This never comes up again, the scene only exists to advance the movie's nudity quota (the director Martha Coolidge was told that a minimum of four scenes with women's breasts were required) and to establish that Tommy is a Bad Person We Don't Like. I mean, Cage's friend pursues one of Julie's other friends in much the same fashion, but in his favour, he doesn't wear popped collars, so how bad can he really be? In true 80s Movie Meathead style, Tommy sees Cage eyeballin' his woman, and punches him, and the punks thrown out of the party. This isn't Cage's world. Nicolas Cage is a punk you see, he does not belong in the world of popped colllars and clashing colours.

Cage and his one punk friend white Rufio drive away, but Cage is consumed by rage/strange Cage acting and decides that he has to go back to the party. "Nobody is going to tell me who I can and can't score with!" Charming. He goes back and hides in the bathroom waiting for Julie to come in. Lurking in the shadows while people excrete waste until his woman comes in and he can corner her seems like pretty Cagey behaviour, all it's really missing is a few Elvis impersonators. He whisks her off to the rough side of the tracks, where there are clubs that literally look like they have never been cleaned. He essentially accuses her of being a complete phoney because of her Valley lifestyle. For no reason that is ever really made clear, she falls for him. What follows is about 25 minutes of montage. Nic Cage and Valley Girl walk to a place, then make out. Then they walk to a place, and make out. It's hard to begrudge a film leaning so hard on montages when it only has a budget of $350,000, but it's a little hard to care about the relationship between these people when I don't know anything about them other than one says "like", "bitchin'" and "totally" a lot, and the other has the dead fish eyes and cold voice of a man who keeps women down the bottom of wells.
If you like watching Nicolas Cage kissing, this movie is perfect for you and also stay away from me!

It's unclear to me which one is supposed to be the main character. Cage is the only person in this cast who went on to do big things (Hot Bod Tommy grew up to be Uncle Jack from Breaking Bad), has first billing and more screentime. But the movie is called 'Valley Girl' and the conflict that is brought in is centered around Julie. Her friends don't like Cage. He's too grody and weird (this would make them look like bad people except it's totally true). Tommy wants to get back with her so they can be prom king and queen. Not wanting to be cast aside by her peers, she reluctantly breaks up with Cage. He doesn't take it well. He follows her everywhere, in a variety of wacky disguises. "Oh Mister Cinecal, you're exaggerating, this sounds pretty amusing!" you might say. He sleeps naked in her front garden. Does the Valley not have police she can call on this guy? In the end, Cage wins her back by crashing the prom, punching the paper prom king crown right off of Tommy's head and running off with his woman. So I guess the movie actually was about him all along.
Actual Cage Dialogue: "Your FACE is in 3D!"

This movie is certainly not the worst thing I've watched for this blog, it does have a pretty good 80s soundtrack going for it featuring music from Modern English, The Plimsouls and a truly perplexing number from the prom called 'Johnny Are You Queer?', but the film is certainly not great. I couldn't care a lick about the overwrought feelings of these two dummies and what's worse, I could only understand what the Valley Girls were saying about 1/3 of the time. Cage is pretty much the actor as we know him now even at this early stage. He often looks like he doesn't want to be there and flits between monotone and madcap at a moment's notice. Science may never unfurl what it is that Nicolas Cage is supposed to be, but at least it can now be said with some degree of certainty that he always acted that way. At least he got rid of the frosted tips.

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