As some of you might have been able to figure out, if TCM is showing a movie on Friday night that I haven’t seen, then by God, I’m going to watch no matter what the hell it is. I’d heard a bit about Little Darlings, but had never really read up on it. Besides, it’s an 80’s movie, and I am a horrible sucker for 1980’s tropes, no matter how corny they may be.
Little Darlings is a tale of two girls, Ferris (Tatum O’Neal) and Angel (Kristy McNichol), and their race to see who can loose their virginity first during summer camp. Ferris is the doe eyed rich girl and Angel is the tomboy from the other side of the tracks who is not at all amused by one boy’s disgustingly pathetic attempt at a come-on.
Angel often lets her Converse High-tops do the talking.
The two girls have a not so great initial meeting on the bus to camp, setting up their rivalry for the rest of the film. The bus ride also serves as an introduction to the other side characters of the film, each one essentially a walking cliché.
Screw you, hippie!
The bet is started early on by the stereotypical bitchy girl required to appear in every teen drama. She mocks them for being virgins and then blah, blah, blah BETS ON! (How it got there doesn’t make sense and isn’t important, because…80’s movie.)
Unfortunately they’re in an all girls camp, so their first task to actually find someone to do the horizontal mambo with. Though that doesn’t stop the other girls at camp from starting up a betting pool.
Ferris apparently has some deep seeded daddy issues, as her first choice is camp instructor, Gary Callahan (Armand Assante). Something that’s not totally creepy in any way.
I’ve got nothing against Armand Assante, but…..ewwwwwwww.
Having chosen the only eligible 30 year old bachelor at camp puts Angel a step behind. Wanting to be completely prepared for any occasion as all good girls should, all the girls from Cabin C hijack a bus
Little Wolf. Really?
And head down to the nearest gas station to purchase some condoms for the big event.
Damnit, girls. You only needed TWO.
Angel chooses this moment to literally pick the first guy she sees as “IT”. Thankfully it’s Mat Dillon, putting them out of range of creepy-felony territory, though I still think she could have done better.
The subject of how the other girls are actually supposed to tell who loses their virginity first does come up, but the girls ultimately decide that they’ll just be able to tell based on how the girl looks and we are mercifully spared any talk of any more intrusive test.
“How are we supposed to tell again?”
“I told you. We’ll just know, damn it. Now shut up so I can ogle boys.”
So some sex is had, some sex is not had, some punches are thrown
Right on, hippie! (That little hippie is Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City fame, by the way)
And both girls grow and mature from their experience blah, blah, blah, sappy 80’s ending.
While the film initially sets up to focus on the two girls, it’s pretty obvious as the film rolls on that the writers and director found Angel more compelling. She gets more screen time, she gets the more emotional scenes and she’s just a more dynamic character overall.
Poor Ferris on the other hand almost gets regulated to the post of secondary character. It’s not necessarily that she’s any less interesting; she’s just not given as much screen time to really shine. It’s a shame really, as Tatum O’Neal can be quite impressive when given the opportunity, but when the two starring girls are in the same scene it’s almost always Kristy McNichol who’s given the better material, leaving Tatum in the background looking like this
How did my life come to this?
I must admit though, that my favorite parts of the movie were the little events and discussions that all the girls had amongst themselves. It’s pretty damn obvious that they were having fun with the whole thing and that makes me enjoy the movie just a little bit more.
The description and advertising taglines for Little Darlings (The Bet is On: Whoever looses her virginity first- Wins) almost make the movie sound like a raunchy 80’s comedy in the vein of Porkey’s, but it’s not. This is a coming of age story. One that’s set and filmed in the 80’s…at a summer camp…filled with virgins…with nary a psychotic slasher in sight.
This is a film that focuses on emotions, not sight gags. A lot of the material is corny and cliché, yet it manages to retain a sense of dignity about the subject matter, helped along by some impressive acting by the primary and secondary cast. And that’s saying a lot considering the cast is primarily made up of 10-16 year old girls. Had it been filmed today it would have certainly been given an American Pie spin instead of turning out to be the thoughtful little drama it became.
So if you like coming of age stories or 80’s films in general feel free to give this one a spin, especially if you see it for cheap anywhere. Because of it’s rather awesome 80’s soundtrack it has taken forever to receive a DVD release (just this year.) I have not read glowing things about the quality of that transfer, however, so you may be better off finding one of the VHS tapes.
It is also available to rent on Amazon.