Tuesday, January 12, 2016

1980 Week: Foxes

          Disco-era angst over teenage girls growing up too fast was fodder for myriad made-for-TV melodramas and a handful of features, but few such projects have aged well, particularly since most of them used the subject matter as an excuse for creating lurid images of nymphets dressed like streetwalkers. Consider the peculiar case of Foxes, which stars precocious Jodie Foster as the ringleader for a quartet of high-school girls who spend their free time experimenting with drugs and sex, largely because their libertine parents set poor examples. As directed by English stylist Adrian Lyne, who was part of a cadre of slick UK directors invading Hollywood around the turn of the decade (alongside Alan Parker and Ridley Scott), Foxes has the artistic veneer of a serious picture and the narrative soul of an exploitation flick. Yet the actual content of the film occupies a queasy middle ground between those extremes. Bereft of nudity and including virtually no onscreen sexuality, Foxes is like its characters—the movie talks a good game without going all the way.
          Had screenwriter Gerald Ayres compensated for this lack of salacious material by featuring meaningful dialogue and thoughtful characterizations, the movie could easily have become the best of its bottom-dwelling breed. Instead, Foxes is the definition of style over substance. Upon close inspection, the actual storyline is so slight it barely exists. Basically, each of the four girls has a unique set of misadventures, and the quartet periodically merges for scenes of driving and eating and partying. Jeanie (Foster) clashes with her single mother, Mary (Sally Kellerman), who does a lousy job of balancing family, school, and work. Nerdy Madge (Marilyn Kagan) attempts to set up housekeeping with an older man named Jay (Randy Quaid). Hottie Dierdre (Kandice Smith) plays adolescent romantic games, breaking hearts along the way. And doomed Annie (played by real-life rocker Cherie Currie of the Runaways) functions as a one-woman cautionary tale by messing with bad boys and hard drugs.
          Lyne masks the trashiness of the film with the signature look of the Lyne/Parker/Scott school, diffused side-light that makes everything look as if it was shot through the bottom of a used milk bottle. The naturalistic acting of the cast helps, with Currie making a minor impression as a teen trainwreck, and Foster delivers much better work than the picture deserves, even though she frequently shares scenes with the silly Scott Baio, previously her costar in the absurd Parker-directed musical Bugsy Malone (1976). Oh, and one final note—by the time Foxes ends, you’ll need a long reprieve from hearing Donna Summer’s wonderful ballad “On the Radio,” because Giorgio Moroder, who cowrote that song and provided the score for Foxes, features the tune itself and/or the underlying melody about eight zillion times.

Foxes: FUNKY


Enchantress said...

The Dierdre and Madge descriptions should be reversed (Deirdre calling the bagger to invite him to the concert, while working her sex-pot voice for all its worth). I agree! Adrian Lyne's films have a look all their own. They are truly beautiful to watch.

dbreckman said...

I think you may be short changing the quality of Ayres screenplay, which was exhaustively researched and intended to reflect the lives of a specific group of people (teenage girls) at a specific place and time (the San Fernando Valley in the late 1970s). I always felt it was sharply observed and beautifully acted. For me the film in large measure succeeds.

Joseph Kearny said...

People started laughing every time that insistent theme On the Radio piped up on the soundtrack and Sally Kellerman is a hoot as Foster's mother slamming her thighs while saying "you make me hate my hips!" Kagan and Foster's hips ironically are larger than Kellermans. Cliched characters and episodic script is unfocused!