Julie (Jessica Rothe) is the ultimate ’80s Valley Girl. A creative free spirit; Julie’s time is spent with her best friends shopping at the Galleria mall and making plans for senior prom. That is, until she falls hard for Randy (Joshua Whitehouse), a Sunset Strip punk rocker, who challenges everything the Valley and Julie stand for. Despite push-back from friends and family, Julie must break out of the safety of her world to follow her heart and discover what it really means to be a Valley Girl. Set to a rock ‘n roll ’80s soundtrack produced by legendary Harvey Mason, Jr. with dance numbers by choreographer Mandy Moore, Valley Girl is a musical adaptation of the classic 1983 hit film that changed American teenage life forever.
Rachel Lee Goldenberg’s newest musical adaptation of Valley Girl is going to garner a mixed reaction from critics and audiences alike. That’s for sure. In fact, it already has. I can totally understand both viewpoints. If you watch this film and thought it was truly out-of-this-world amazing, I can understand that. But, if you thought it was truly terrible and ridiculous, I can see that as well.
Personally though, I found this new telling of this story to be an absolute delight for the most part. Right from the opening scenes alone, Goldenberg lets you know what kind of movie this is going to be. We are treated to an upbeat soundtrack right off the bat with the cast of the film singing “We Got The Beat” by The Go-Go’s which then smoothly transitions over to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation”.
A lot of these scenes can come across as extremely over-the-top, goofy and even at times a little bit corny, but if you’re complaining about that a lot, I feel like you are sort of missing the point. Valley Girl knows exactly what type of movie it is and goes for it one-hundred percent of the time, ultimately culminating in a syrupy sweet musical with tons of stuff to enjoy aside from the wonderful renditions of excellent eighties songs.
The biggest positive here is without a doubt the performance from Jessica Rothe as Julie Richman, the story’s lead protagonist. Ever since the release of Happy Death Day, myself and many others have been saying that Rothe deserves to be a star. The performance that she delivers here is, like usual for her, terrific. She is incredibly likeable as Julie, a girl with big dreams to move to New York City to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. The way her story plays out was immensely sweet and charming. If Rothe continues to deliver performances as strong as she has been doing since the start of her career, I wouldn’t be surprised if she won an Academy Award one day.
In addition to this, she has absolutely incredible chemistry with her co-star Josh Whitehouse, who is also exceptional in the role of Randy. The pair’s relationship and dynamic is extremely corny and at times, seems like it has no faults. It seems like they are literally a picture-perfect couple for the majority of the movie. But that being said, it was also handled in a cute way that honestly did put a smile on my face.
Another thing that is definitely worth praising here is the attention to detail and how well they managed to encapsulate the feel of the eighties. In addition to having the great, nostalgic songs sung by the cast of the film, they also bring up leg warmers. And of course, the hairstyles and outfits worn by everyone look spot on.
What made the style and aesthetic of the film pop even more was the cinematography by Adam Silver. Whenever most people think of the eighties, they think of bright neon colors, the outfits, hairstyles, cars, etc. Silver’s camerawork is extremely vibrant and full of life and joy, making it hard to not appreciate.
All in all, this was a hugely enjoyable movie. It’s ridiculous at times and does have an ending that feels a little bit jarring and makes you question why certain plot points earlier on were necessary, but at the end of the day, Goldenberg has crafted a wonderfully enjoyable musical that will take you on a breezy and uplifting nostalgic-filled ride.
Valley Girl is a totally rad musical throwback to the eighties complete with a wonderful soundtrack and an astounding performance from Jessica Rothe.
Overall Grade: B+
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for teen partying, language, some suggestive material, and brief nudity
Directed by: Rachel Lee Goldenberg
Distributed by: United Artists Releasing
Release Date: May 8, 2020
Running Time: 102 minutes