Little Darlings (1980) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA rated R for sexuality and language
Running time: 96 min.
Cast: Kristy McNichol, Tatum O'Neal, Krista Errickson, Armand Assante, Matt Dillon, Cynthia Nixon, Alexa Kenin, Abby Bluestone, Margaret Blye, Nicolas Coster
Director: Ronald F. Maxwell
Screenplay: Kimi Peck, Dalene Young
Two 15-year-old girls, rich-and-pampered Ferris (O'Neal, The Bad News Bears) and rough-and-tumble Angel (McNichol, White Dog), attend summer camp and succumb to massive peer pressure among the girls to lose their virginity, eventually leading to a bet amongst them to see which of the two can lose hers first. Angel has her heart set for Randy (Dillon, Drugstore Cowboy), the heartthrob from the boys camp residing across the lake, while Ferris would like the handsome and much older camp counselor, Gary (Assante, The Marrying Man).
Acute portrayals and nice performances by the two leads helps this mildly racy but ultimately innocuous teen sex film stay a step or two above the exploitative premise to emerge as something worthwhile. Armand Assante also gives more than the role calls for as Ferris's would-be conquest, and his role is believable and even brings out O'Neal's performance to deliver something that could have been icky and scandalous, but remains tender and even a tad affecting. Matt Dillon feels right on the money as well as the mean teen Randy. Most of the rest of the girls play for one-note laughs, though Sex and the City fans will still find delight at seeing a young Cynthia Nixon (Igby Goes Down) in her role as the hippie flower child.
Fans of the two leads and summer camp movies in general should find plenty to like, as it remains one of the better ones made. The humor is mild, and sometimes subtle (for instance, Gary's rendition of "The Riddle Song", which features the line, "I gave my love a cherry..." winks at the girls' virginity to give). One other factor in the film's favor is the amount of fun the actors appear to be having making what might have otherwise been a difficult film, as the giggles during such scenes as the camp comedy staple food fight in the cafeteria appear to be genuine. Although it might seem like a kids film, the R rating is earned, mostly through the coarse language, though the sexually tinged subject matter itself probably would have been enough for it to get at least a PG-13 rating today. Perhaps helping the female perspective and authenticity is the fact that the screenplay is written by two women, Dalene Young (The Babysitters Club) and Kimi Peck.
The dramatic parts are better than the comedic, and ultimately make Little Darlings a cut above the male-centric films regarding the loss of virginity. It's a far cry better than American Pie.
©2012 Vince Leo