Foxes (1980) / Drama
MPAA Rated: R for sexuality, drug use, some violence, and language
Running Time: 106 min.
Cast: Jodie Foster, Cherie Currie, Marilyn Kagan, Kandice Stroh, Scott Baio, Sally Kellerman, Randy Quaid, Lois Smith, Laura Dern (cameo)
Director: Adrian Lyne
Screenplay: Gerald Ayres
Foxes is a coming-of-age story revolving around four teenage girls living in the Los Angeles area, trying their best to deal with raging hormones, peer pressure, drugs, sex, booze, and family demands. Jeanie (Foster, Taxi Driver) is the girl that binds them together in a more sensible fashion, a child trying to find her way after a divorce that leaves her mostly without a father. Annie (Currie, lead singer of (appropriately) The Runaways) often runs away from home to her policeman father's consternation; he wants to put her into a mental institution. Madge (Kagan, The Initiation) is the homelier one of the group, wishing she weren't still a virgin, in a relationship with a much older man. Deirdre (Stroh) is the player of the group, flirting with the guys, although not taking any of them seriously enough to be faithful. They struggle to find their way to happiness, only to find more difficulties as a result.
Adrian Lyne directs for the first time, showing his propensity for soft-focus, glossy dramas early on that would become his trademark style in future popular films like Flashdance, 9 1/2 Weeks, and Fatal Attraction. His film builds slow, introducing us to the characters and their lifestyles, before finally gelling into something more straightforward in the second half, when most of the stories come to a head. Lyne, who made his start in television commercials, seems more interested in the technical qualities of the film, from the hazy lighting, slick editing, and constant scoring, and as a result this personal tale of four young girls trying to cope is a bit more distant, cold, and manipulative than it should have been. The script by Gerald Ayres (Rich and Famous) suggests a bleaker film than what plays out here, and perhaps a bit more personal, but in the waning days of the disco era, superficial treatments were the norm for fare aimed at younger viewers.
Foxes does benefit from Jodie Foster's star presence, and she does deliver a fine performance, along with the titillation factor surrounding teen sexuality, love, drugs, and the hard knock life of the streets of LA. It also makes use of the hit song by Donna Summer, "On the Radio" -- a great dance classic that is played quite often (too much for my taste) throughout the film, mostly in the softer, slower intro. Giorgio Moroder produced that song and provided much of the music used on the soundtrack, including new songs by Cher, Brooklyn Dreams, and Munich Machine.
As a bit of a time capsule of the life, music, and fashions of the late-1970s, Foxes will have its audience out there, nostalgic for the skateboard, knee-high socks, and feathered hair styles. The subject matter occasionally rises up to engage with some good bits of drama, but for the most part, the aloofness factor created by Lyne's moody style saps a good deal of the energy, smoothing out the rough edges that should have been there to make this the substantive and unflinching look at teen problems it could have been. The ending of the film, which seems to be overreaching in trying to make this tale of lost youth into something deeper, is awkwardly handled and overwrought, a possible metaphor for the dangers of hedonistic lifestyles. An epilogue puts a cap on the tale, which might have worked if the themes of the film weren't completely paved over in favor of visual appeal and soundtrack hocking.
Foxes has a small-ish following among those who were teens themselves during the same era, especially those who engaged in the lifestyle exhibited by the teenagers in the film itself. Outside of the aforementioned nostalgia factor, this is a somewhat shallow film born from a somewhat shallow era in popular culture. Like the "foxes" of the film, it looks good, but underneath, there's just not enough substance to keep you interested.
©2006 Vince Leo