Let’s face it — this decade is off to a terrible start. The global pandemic can make one long to escape back to a more colorful, lively, and innocent time.
Fortunately, a new jukebox musical remake of the 1983 classic “Valley Girl” (originally starring Deborah Foreman and Nicolas Cage) is here to whisk viewers back to the neon days of shopping malls, arcades, and leg warmers.
The new version of “Valley Girl” recaptures the cultural moment that took place in the 80s in San Fernando Valley, California, where kids hung out all day at malls and spoke in a “Valleyspeak” lingo using expressions like “Totally,” “As if,” and “Fer Shur.”
“Valley Girl” stars Jessica Rothe (La La Land) as Julie, a fashion conscious valley girl who falls for a punk rocker from Hollywood named Randy, played by Joshua Whitehouse. The rest of the cast includes Alicia Silverstone, Jessie Ennis, Ashleigh Murray, Chloe Bennet, and Mae Whitman. The film also features infamous Youtuber Logan Paul, perfectly cast as Julie’s popular, tennis playing boyfriend.
The film was written by Amy Talkington, and directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg who is best known for directing Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig in the Lifetime movie “A Deadly Adoption,” as well as producing the President Obama episode of “Between Two Ferns.”
“It was both very fun and very difficult. Getting to make an 80s musical — and I’m a fan of the original movie — and getting to make something that’s just so full of life and so curated, to get to design the music and choreography and the sets was a thrill for a director,” said Goldenberg. “Because of all those elements it’s extremely challenging. I and our cast, the whole team, worked really, really hard because, in addition to all of the trials of making a movie we were also creating a full album, and doing it all on not the biggest budget. It was an adventure.”
To help get the music and dancing right, the filmmakers brought in music producer Harvey Mason, Jr.,who helped put together the soundtracks for “Dream Girls,” “Pitch Perfect,” and “Straight Outta Compton,” and critically acclaimed choreographer Mandy Moore, who created the dance numbers for the Academy Award winning “La La Land.”
“They were absolute dreams,” said Goldenberg. “It was so exciting. It was fun because I am sort of the expert on tone and the story, but I’m not a musician nor am I a dancer, so getting to collaborate with them and give them my ideas and my larger vision for that and then having them run with it, provide things for me to look at and talk about, it was really fun. They both brought so many great ideas and were extremely patient as I’m trying to describe what I’m thinking to Mandy and trying to show her a dance move I don’t know how to do, her patience was amazing.”
All of the actors sing new versions of classic 80s songs like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “Material Girl,” “I Melt with You,” and “You Might Think I’m Crazy” in ways that help propel the characters and story forward.
“I was really trying to serve the movie and not have it just be a catch-all for 80s songs,” said Goldenberg. “There were tons of songs that I love deeply that just had no place in this movie and then the songs that we did put in, it was all about working to earn them — like ‘Under Pressure’ – I felt like the heart of ‘Under Pressure’ really worked, but we did dozens of versions of that scene to make sure each character is singing a line that makes sense for their character and the cutting all works well.”
For the some of the look of the film, Goldenberg and the cast looked at their own parents.
“Once I was in touch with the actresses, we all started sharing photos of our moms in the 80s. To reference, Chloe (Bennet) had a photo of her mom’s hair that we were like, ‘Yes, that’s what [her character’s] hair should look like.’”
Fashion, of course, is a major part of the movie and there are plenty of preppy pastel polos, lacy gloves, and big hair (spiked or otherwise), but in a way that appeals to modern trends.
“We spoke about not just throwing together generic 80s into the mix, but really trying to figure out what parts of the 80s speak to today and finding this authentic, but curated version of the wardrobe where our characters are supposed to look a certain way, people would say, ‘Oh, I would love that outfit.’ That feels like that’s something people could wear around and it would make sense in both worlds,” explained Goldenberg.
Since movie theaters are mostly closed right now, “Valley Girl” is getting a VOD release on Mother’s Day, May 8, but also a special, limited engagement at several drive-in theaters including Jesup Twin Drive-In near Savannah.
“Never in the process of making it did I ever picture it at a drive-in, but when I found out that was an option it was such a perfect fit,” said Goldenberg. “It’s such a great movie to see with family, in a big space, on a big screen, and it has it has a throwback vibe. It’s a perfect fit I couldn’t have imagined before a month ago.”
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