Jun 21, 2011

The Last American Virgin

DIR: Boaz Davidson

Director Boaz Davidson's original film Lemon Popsicle (made in his native Israel), became popular in a dubbed version on the American and British markets in the late 70's and early 80's as one of the original video hits (it also spawned a whole series of films). It was then somewhat inevitable that some enterprising producer would get around to remaking the film for an English speaking audience, but it is perhaps something of a surprise that they hired Davidson himself to write and direct. I haven't seen Lemon Popsicle, so I don't know how closely this film sticks to it predecessor, but I do know that The Last American Virgin is an interesting film in its own right, and certainly deserves to be better known.

The film really falls into two quite different parts. The first hour of the film combines a knockabout sex comedy about three high schoolers attempting to lose their virginity with a slightly bittersweet twist; Gary (Lawrence Monoson) has fallen for Karen (Diane Franklin), the new girl at school, but she's started going out with his jock friend Rick (Steve Antin, more recently the director of Burlesque). It's the last forty minutes of the film that really pay off this very relateable emotional content, as Gary steps up to the plate to help Karen when Rick won't. The film becomes darker and more dramatic, and has a real emotional punch towards the end.

It's not perfect; the parts don't always mesh, and while the sex comedy is pretty funny the tone of the film as a whole often seems ill at ease. In addition, Monoson doesn't quite have the dramatic chops for the heavier lifting of the second half. That said, it's tough not to be swept along with the film's breezier first hour. The first fifteen minutes are largely given over to Gary, Rick and their friend David (Joe Rubbo) picking up three girls (you'll recognise one of them; she's the girl who was having a driving lesson in that scene in The Naked Gun) they think will be 'easy' and the comic complications they run into with Gary's parents. It's all a bit familiar after countless imitators like the American Pie films, but still, it's funny stuff, and it also sets up the characters quite well. There are plenty of amusing set pieces too, from an awkward conversation with a pharmacist to an hilarious moment in which Gary comes home drunk and proceeds to flirt with one of his Mother's friends.

The Last American Virgin is definitely raunchy - and there's plenty of nudity, though frankly I could have gone without looking at Louisa Mortiz's terrible boob job - and yet, thanks to the naivete of most of the characters there is also a strange innocence to it (established, surely, so Davidson can shatter it with his unexpected third act).

The performances aren't what you'd call brilliant, but they serve the material well enough for the most part. Antin is a perfect asshole, Rubbo amusing as the accident prone one of the group, and the supporting cast generally do nice work, with particular kudos due Kimmy Robertson, who is very funny as Karen's friend Rose, who has designs on David. Monoson may not be any great shakes dramatically, but he handles the comedy better, and is at least convincing mooning over Diane Franklin. Franklin makes her debut here, and though she's not asked to do a great deal, at least in terms of dialogue, until the last third of the film, her presence is effective in and of itself. It's not hard, really, to buy into a geeky 17 year old kid instantly falling head over heels for her; she's basically the dictionary definition of 'unfeasibly cute'. Come the last act she's solid too, handling the pivotal scene well, wringing emotion from it that you wouldn't expect after watching the film's first fifteen minutes.

The Last American Virgin isn't quite a lost classic, and it loses some shine when compared to the real classic teen movie of 1982; Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which mixes tones more organically, boasts an all star cast and has a better soundtrack (Somebody's Baby notwithstanding), but certainly this film deserves better than its current status in the UK; as a virtually unknown film that hasn't seen a release since 1987, there is plenty to enjoy here, and at the very least it is refreshing to see an American teen movie with such a bittersweet ending. If you are, as I am, fond of teen movies then this one is definitely recommended.

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