Thursday, May 20, 2010
Last American Virgin (1982)
The Movie: Gary, Rick and David are best friends who do everything together; particularly when it comes to trying to get laid. Rick is especially good at this. He's a manipulative creep and the kind of guy who will schtup anything female; which wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the fact that he always seems to succeed at it. The three are very close, but it all changes with the arrival of the new girl, Karen.
Gary encounters Karen and it's love at first sight. Unfortunately, she winds up with Rick. The friendship is strained as Gary burns with unrequited love while Rick is determined to turn Karen into one of his conquests. Then she gets pregnant...
Ah, high school. I'm not far from my ten year reunion as of writing this, and I still remember much from my high school years. I try to suppress, but still I remember. I went into The Last American Virgin because I was looking for movies starring the lovely and talented Diane Franklin; one of my reasons for wanting to break the laws of time and space. What I got was something that reopened many of the scars still seared onto my brain and soul.
I think the best way to describe The Last American Virgin is as a bait and switch movie. By that I mean that you go in thinking that it's one thing, and it turns out to be something very different. From the box, the theatrical preview, and even the beginning of the movie itself; you would think you are watching a teenage sex comedy. That's pretty much how it plays for the first thirty minutes or so. Past that, it shows its teeth as something much darker.
Everything that you would expect from a teen sex comedy is there. Our three protagonists are introduced as your typical heroes in these movies: three red-blooded American boys who just want to get laid. They go through all sorts of wacky shenanigans to reach that hallowed goal; most of which do not turn out as expected. There is a soundtrack of the big contemporary pop songs of the time; although somehow they actually fit in nicely. And, of course, there are all sorts of tasteless jokes; my personnel favorite involving the boys' gym class holding a bet on who has the largest penis.
LAV's greatest strength is the accuracy with which it shows adolescent life. Not necessarily in the really big plot points, some of which are improbable, but in the little details. Our hero, Gary (Lawrence Monoson, who went on to be in Friday the 13th part IV, poor bastard) first meets the girl of his dreams (Diane Franklin) at a diner that seems to be the main hangout spot. Actually he sees her, but even when she notices and smiles, he can't do anything but stare and drool. She leaves, and he goes to meet his friends, who we now get to see in action.
Action, of course, is exactly what they're after. Rick has his eye on three girls who he has heard are easy. He invites them over to the boy's table, and automatically there is awkwardness all around. Despite Gary's protests, the boys lure the girls back to his house with the promise of a party and drugs. Of course, the boys don't have drugs, so they give the girls some artificial sweetener and tell them it's cocaine. The girls are fooled, which makes me suspect that like the boys, they're putting on a front and have no idea what they're talking about.
Rick puts the moves on the most attractive girl and gets her into the bedroom. David follows suit, and Gary is left with the least attractive of the three girls. Another scene follows that is both funny and uncomfortable. Gary, who never wanted any of this in the first place, feels compelled to put the moves on the remaining girl. She, who was just as eager as Gary (i.e. not at all), tries to deflect him with feigned apathy. I don't know who the actress was, but I really hope she did other movies after this one because her facial expressions and body language are wonderful. She doesn’t say a word, but just by looking at her face you know exactly what she is thinking.
The movie really gets down to business with the establishment of the love triangle. After finding out that his dream girl is a new student at his school and learning her name, he “arranges” a meeting with her. It ends with him thinking he might have a chance; but at the party he attends that night he finds that Rick has already gotten to her. It's obvious that if they aren't an item, they soon will be. In another scene that could have been played for laughs but instead is just uncomfortable; Gary reacts by getting drunk, embarrassing himself both at the party, and in front of his parents and their friends at home.
Now, I've met guys like Rick (Steve Antin, who played Troy in Goonies and is apparently an executive producer for the Pussycat Dolls) before. Personally, they tend to simultaneously inspire three emotions in me; disgust, for what they do, envy, for the fact that they are able to do it and I'm not, and guilt for feeling the envy. Gary is probably feeling something similar, along with the usual tangled emotions that come with your good friend being involved with someone you’re interested in. Finally; Gary cares for Karen and he knows what Rick is; as well as what Rick will do with Karen once he loses interest.
The movie makes no bones about the fact that Rick's a slimy manipulative bastard. He manipulates everyone, including his “best friends,” to get what he wants. Gary is in the horrible position of knowing the train wreck is coming, but being unable to do a thing about it.
So, the majority of the movie focuses on this twisted triangle. Gary desperately searches for a way to win Karen away from Rick before he gets too far, to no avail. There is the further complication that Karen's best friend, Rose (Kimmy Robertson, who would later play Lucy in the television show Twin Peaks, and be the voice of Milhouse's girlfriend on an episode of the Simpsons) is very hot for Gary. Gary has no interest in her, but for some reason Karen and Rick are determined to get them together.
About halfway through, the movie changes tone completely and jettisons any appearance of being a comedy. As an example, a comparison of two of the boys' sexual (mis)adventures should suffice. Near the beginning of the movie; the three boys pay a visit to a beautiful, amorous, foreign, older lady whose boyfriend has been away for far too long. Now, while an older woman seducing underage boys is a creepy idea, that creepiness is nowhere in sight here. Indeed, the scene pretty much is in the spirit of a European sex farce, complete with the long absent boyfriend choosing that moment to return to the woman in his life. There is cheerful music (Carmela, the woman, plays some tango music to get in the mood), t&a, vulgar humor and a general spirit of good-natured fun. The only off note in this, which I think is a very nice touch, is Gary and David's nervousness about the situation.
The second encounter, taking place about half-way through the movie, couldn't be more different. The three boys patronize a prostitute. She's okay looking, in a really trashy way, but she has an attitude that ensures I wouldn't touch her with a ten-foot pole if she was a knockout. The deed is done in an extremely dirty, gloomy basement. There is no t&a; in fact, you don't see anything about the act at all. Instead, you just hear the prostitute yelling at and insulting the boys while she concludes her business with them. It is about as unarousing a sex scene as I have ever come across in a movie; a point driven home by Gary throwing up after his turn with her.
Of course, it's even worse than it first appears; the next day, the boys find out that they have crabs. The scenes of the boys trying to get rid of them are played for laughs, but it's a queasy, uncomfortable kind of laughter. This also marks the last of the jokes in the film; it's deadly serious from here on.
Karen gets pregnant and the inevitable happens; Rick abandons her. Gary sees his turn to shine, and takes it. Gary goes above and beyond anything anybody could ever ask or expect of him. Carefully keeping it discrete, he arranges for an appointment for Karen at a clinic and raises the money himself to pay for it. It goes well and it looks like Gary might have what he's looking for, but.... Well; without giving away any details I will just say that the end of the movie left me feeling like somebody sucker-punched me in the gut. I've seen the Last American Virgin at least three times now, and knowing what happens doesn't make it easier.
The actors provide good performances all around. Monoson makes Gary very believable and sympathetic, even when he's being an asshole; something all teenagers are at times. Antin also makes Rick believable, doing a good portrayal of a guy who, beneath all the good looks and charm, is simply a manipulative slime bag. Robertson doesn't have a large part as Rose, but her portrayal of the character reminds me of many girls I knew in high school and college.
The IMDB says that LAV is Diane Franklin's first film. Karen's is a very simple role, just an ordinary teenage girl who can't, or won't, see the misery that's coming. Franklin doesn't really have any opportunity to show the versatility she has in her later roles, but she still is a hell of an actress. If nothing else, she emotes well. Whether it's happy, miserable, love struck or what have you; whenever the part calls for her to portray an emotion she is very believable. Another things she has going for her is her appearance. She is gorgeous (it's obvious why Gary and Rick are interested in her), but she doesn't look like a starlet or super-model. Instead, she has the look of someone us mere mortals could expect to someday meet (knock on wood), which adds greatly to her believability.
Admittedly, the character of David (Joe Rubbo, who didn't do too many other movies) is kind of shuffled off to the side, but he is still a good character and an important part of the film. David is fat, but is not “The Fat Kid” you see in so many other teenage movies. There is some humor at his expense (he has a tendency to be in a compromising position when the worst person possible enters the room) but the fact that he is fat is presented as just a very minor part of who he is. For one thing, David is generally lucky with the ladies. Not as much as Rick, but much more so than Gary. Also, from his constantly taking down transactions in a notebook, he gives the impression of a budding businessman. A successful one too, judging from the fact that the guys are constantly bumming money off of him.
Finally, while he's not part of the love triangle forming, the movie implies pretty strongly that David knows full well what is going on between his friends. In fact, one gets the impression that he's doing everything he can to keep the situation from boiling over. It's not a major part of the movie, but it definitely adds to it.
I would say that the Last American Virgin is a good movie. Aside from the good acting, plot and setups; I respect the movie for portraying adolescence more honestly than most teenage movies are willing to do. After all, those of us not blinded by nostalgia will remember that this time of life is hell. LAV is willing to deal with those lessons that are pounded into our heads during adolescence that we really don't want to think about. Life is unfair. You don't always succeed. It is possible to give your all and still fail. You don't always get what you deserve.
I would definitely recommend this movie. However, I will repeat my warning from the beginning of this review; this is not a brainless teen sex romp or a feel-good romantic comedy. Do not watch the Last American Virgin if you are depressed, upset or otherwise in need of something uplifting. You have been warned.