|LITTLE DARLINGS (1980)|
Ronald F. Maxwell
|Time: 95 mins.|
Genre: Teen Camp Comedy
I know what you're thinking. Not another teen camp comedy about losing one's virginity. The twist in LITTLE DARLINGS is that it's the ladies trying to win the bet. It makes for quite a different experience at the cineplex. There's no nudity and very little raunchiness, which makes for a refreshing change in the coming-of-age genre. However, the film also carries a very different tone and even has a message about rushing into sexual intercourse that you will never see in a film starring boys. This is, of course, as it should be because sex is different for men and women. We do look at it from completely opposite points of view. I would argue that men enjoy it more. I think both sexes have equal drives, but women do put more emotional weight on sexual encounters mainly because it has more consequences for us. LITTLE DARLINGS is by no means a serious film, but it does make a point to show, pretty honestly in my opinion, the emotional impact of one's first time. This experience colors your entire sexual future and it's a shame most people do it just to get it out of the way, long before they're ready. A hard lesson learned by one of our DARLINGS.
Except for the sweetness and honesty of certain portions of the script, there is really nothing to distinguish this movie from every other teen comedy. McNichol and O'Neal play the new girls to the camp, one from the wrong side of the tracks, the other incredibly wealthy. They take an immediate dislike to each other surprise, surprise and are pitted against each other in the battle to see who can lost their virginity first. Neither of them are to keen on the whole contest, but can find no way out if they want to fit in. Angel (McNichol) is a tough girl, more in touch with her masculine side, out to prove more to herself than anyone that boys find her attractive. In fact, she generally finds them pretty boring and obnoxious. Ferris (O'Neal), who's dealing with her parents' impending breakup, has a more open attitude towards men, but doesn't know the first thing about sex or relationships. Most of her knowledge comes from romance novels. As the summer progresses, the camp begins to take sides and the pressure is on for each of them to pick a target.
Ferris picks one of the camp instructors Mr. Callahan, played by the sultry Armand Assante. Not a bad choice for a 15-year-old. Get someone with experience who will know what to actually do once they get naked. Angel don't let the name fool you finds herself intrigued by Randy, a boy from the next camp over played by Matt Dillon. One of her big mistakes is in picking a guy who's prettier than she is, but I digress. They each set traps to catch their prey Ferris entices Callahan to give her swimming lessons, Angel plies Randy with beers but neither is initially very successful in their endeavors. However, Angel is more determined and actually finds herself attracted to Randy, which is something she never anticipated. With the pressure on, they each make one final stab at the crown. Each of them discovers something about themselves they never knew existed and aren't sure they were ready to find out. Ferris emerges as the victor, but it's not something she's proud of. In the end, their secrets draw them together and allow them to put their differences aside and become true friends.
LITTLE DARLINGS is a 90-minute romp through the pains of adolescence and joys of friendship. McNichol and O'Neal play their parts admirably. McNichol is actually quite good in this film and outshines all the other girls. Her confusion and honest disbelief after the deed is done is a poignant, personal and powerful moment. These are emotions you won't get from the gentlemen of PORKY'S or AMERICAN PIE. With acting chops like these, I'm surprised she's fallen off the face of the planet. She is the only reason this movie is still watchable. O'Neal's attempted seduction of Assante is sweet, but childish. There is no way this girl is ready for the passions of womanhood. Her performance pales in comparison to McNichol's. Dillon does a good job as the sensitive, yet angst-filled Randy. No 17-year-old boy would have been that patient and sweet in real life when he discovers the girl pursuing him was a virgin, but it makes for a nice movie moment. It's wierd to see him so young and innocent looking. The rest of the supporting cast is just there to fill in the background and give the two main characters people to bounce off of. What's funny is the presence of "Sex and the City's" Cynthia Nixon/Miranda as a young earthy-crunchy blond teen. Who knew she'd grow up to be on the forefront of women's sexuality in entertainment.
The scenes of camp fun are as old and tired as the music on the soundtrack. The machinations of the girls somewhat childish and silly. There are many better camp movies, like MEATBALLS, but at least LITTLE DARLINGS gives the ladies point of view for once. Here we are more than just conquests to be won and discarded. Angel and Ferris may not exactly be in complete control of their destinies they are both too desperate to fit in but they do say a great deal about who they are by the choices that they make. I wouldn't rush out to see this movie, there's not enough story or humor to be worth much, but if you have the time and want to see what women think about the sex thing, it's an interesting take on growing up and uncovering the woman within.