‘Valley Girl’ Remake Turns ’80s Teen Rom-Com Into an Exhilarating Jukebox Musical
“Valley Girl,” the classic 1983 teen rom-com that helped launch the career of Nicolas Cage, has been remade for 2020 as an exuberant jukebox musical. Framed by a present-day story in which an empathetic mother, Julie (Alicia Silverstone) tells her brokenhearted teen daughter (Camila Morrone) the tale of her own first love, the main events of this new film also take place in 1983. Teen Julie (Jessica Rothe) is a hopeful Sherman Oaks High School senior who lives for the mall and beach days with her gal pals, beauty-obsessed Karen (Chloe Bennet), brainy Stacey (Jessie Ennis), and aspiring dancer Loryn (Ashleigh Murray). However, Julie desires more out of life, and her curiosity takes her to a new world, one all the way on the other side of the hill.
Director Rachel Lee Goldenberg and writer Amy Talkington recently spoke with Entertainment Voice about their experiences in recreating “Valley Girl” for a 2020 audience. According to Talkington, producer Matt Smith was the one to conceive of the idea to remake the film as a jukebox musical. After reading about the project in the trades, she knew she was destined to write the screenplay.
“The original really spoke to me, and I thought the idea of reimagining it as a musical, it felt different enough from the original,” recalled Talkington, who is originally from Dallas. “The story of Julie being from one world and diving into an edgy world of creativity and art and music was very much my own experience as a teenager, so I connected with the story very personally.”
Goldenberg, who hails from Massachusetts, had a similar experience as an “angsty teen” seeking more exciting art and music than what her suburban surroundings had to offer. “Reading the script and knowing the original film and thinking about just how thrilling it would be to recreate the eighties L.A. punk scene was really the first spark of what got me excited. And then, just also the period musical element of it. There’s so many elements of storytelling, it allows, as a director, to be expressionistic in terms of shaping both the period and the choreography and the music.”
Julie finds herself being pulled away from the familiar after she catches the eye of Randy (Josh Whitehouse), a slightly older punk rock musician who calls Hollywood home, during one of her beach outings. Along with his best friend (Mae Whitman), he crashes a high school party and whisks Jullie and her friends off to a punk show. That night, an exciting new world opens up for Julie, one that takes her away from certain parts of her old life, including her star athlete boyfriend, Mickey (Logan Paul). The breakup is no big loss, as Mickey is a shallow jerk, but things get stickier as Julllie’s new romance puts a strain on some of her other personal relationships, including the one with her concerned parents (Judy Greer, Rob Huebel).
The electrifying eighties soundtrack of “Valley Girl” is used for more than just arousing nostalgic feelings. Songs such as “We Got the Beat,” “Kids in America,” and “Boys Don’t Cry” were wisely selected to convey important story beats and emotion.
“The biggest challenge from the start was how to reimagine the songs for the film,” explained Goldenberg. “It was important for me to not just have a cover of the song that sounds like the song, but not quite as good as you remember it.”
Taking a cue from “Moulin Rouge,” Goldenberg and her crew reimagined classic songs, such as “Under Pressure,” which is performed with an orchestral arrangement during an emotional high point of the film, the break into the third act during which Julie finds herself at a crossroads. “We can’t compete with [David] Bowie and Freddie Mercury,” said the director, explaining that they had to make the songs their own. “It’s really about tailoring each song to the emotions of the characters.”
“Valley Girl” also features impressive choreography, and movement is just as important here when it comes to expression as music is. While Jullie and her friends freely break into big dance numbers, Randy and the punks would never be caught dead doing such a thing; other ways are found for them to express themselves.
Eye-catching colors and costumes are also used to illustrate the differences between the two worlds, as well as Julie’s originality. “It was all about having a great team, our costume designer, our cinematographer, and all these people who were so talented,” said Goldenberg. “We worked really hard, back and forth, to set our palette for the different spaces and what the movie should feel like, and grounding it and making sure that the eighties don’t feel like a joke, but that we are presenting the coolest, most current-feeling version of the eighties.”
Costumes are also especially important in “Valley Girl” because it is Julie’s big dream to move to New York and study fashion. One of the most refreshing aspects of the film is its theme of female empowerment, as Julie, as well as Dartmouth-bound Stacey and a few others, have major career ambitions.
Revealed Talkington, “For me, from the beginning, I really wanted Julie to have [an idea] that it wasn’t just about finding love in this new world. It was about opening up her worldview and discovering her own talents and her belief in her own talents.”
Julie ends up being in awe of fellow San Fernando Valley native Sally Ride, whom, in an inspiring moment, she watches from her living room take off and become the first American woman in space. Goldenberg had the idea to include Ride in the film after she was doing research about 1983 and read about the pioneering astronaut. “That moment of seeing, ‘Oh my god, she’s from the Valley’ [laughs], it was so serendipitous.”
In the end, one doesn’t have to be from the Valley or have come of age in the eighties to relate to what Julie goes through. Her story of love and discovery is universal.
“Whether you went to a punk club or not, I think everyone has that experience of having their mind blown by a new world during their teenage years,” stated Talkington. “But you’re cooler if you went to a punk club,” added Goldenberg.
“Valley Girl” is available May 8 on VOD.