Reviews / Women Film-makers

THROWBACK REVIEW- Just One of The Guys: On 1980s teen sex comedies, girl power, and brilliant disguises

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I’m obsessed with 80s movies, especially the cheesy teen comedies. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Teen Witch, License to Drive, Can’t Buy Me Love…I’ve sat through them all. So I was surprised to learn that Just One of the Guys fell under both my and many others’ radar. In my opinion, it does the girl-disguises-herself-as-a-guy trope from Twelfth Night better than the well-known She’s the Man. In this story, Terry wants her article to be chosen for a coveted internship at the local newspaper, but her sexist teacher chooses a below average article written by a male student instead. “I write an excellent article, and just because I’m cute, no one takes me seriously. It’s not fair,” Terry laments, after both her teacher and boyfriend assert that she can become a model instead. This plot and some of the dialogue is definitely “feminism lite,” but at least it’s earnest. Terry is exasperated with the shallow, sex-obsessed men around her that treat women as brainless objects, “You guys think beautiful women are nothing but decoration, total airheads!” Terry devises a plan to dress up as a guy and attend another school to research a new article and submit it to the internship competition, feeling that her male status will earn her the win she deserves. This article-writing mission gets a bit muddled and put to the side as Terry befriends and (of course) develops a crush on a guy named Rick. For a while you tend to forget why she’s there in the first place as she devotes her time to help Rick be cool and get a date to the prom.

Our leading gender-bending leading lady is played by Joyce Hyser. Her strong and infectious comedic performance really carries the film and makes it work. Her male Terry has a slight New York accent and a smooth, charismatic swagger that was actually based on Ralph Macchio a.k.a. The Karate Kid. One small thing I appreciated is that Joyce Hyser cut her hair for the role rather than just wear a wig. I think this adds to her character’s commitment and convinces the audience that, despite some of the story’s wandering, Terry does have the skills to be a savvy investigative reporter. Another bright spot in the film is Terry’s little brother, Buddy. With his bedroom walls covered in Playboy spreads and nearly all of his dialogue devoted to his relentless quest to lose his virginity, Buddy fulfills the cliché of a horny and annoying younger brother.  However, Billy Jacoby layers his extremely humorous performance as Buddy with a sarcastic sweetness that keeps him from being completely skeevy and makes his raunchiness endearing.

I also feel that having a female director at the helm, Lisa Gottlieb, helps the character of Buddy, and the film itself, stray from submerging into overly sexist waters. None of the characters, even Terry’s shallow boyfriend, fully embody the vapid and exploitative gender stereotypes found in typical teen sex comedies, even the girl Buddy wins as a prize to finally lose his virginity. Also, Buddy and Terry have a unique on-screen sibling relationship. Despite all their jokes and tricks they remain close and supportive of each other. Having a female director also helped the execution of the film’s climax when Terry final reveals herself as a girl to Rick. Terry’s real boyfriend shows up at the other school’s prom and exposes her identity, but Rick doesn’t believe it. Terry then takes him aside in private and opens her tuxedo shirt and reveal her breasts. I feel like with a male director it could’ve been shot in an exploitative manner, but Lisa Gottlieb crafts an honest and truly comedic moment. I read some trivia that Lisa Gottlieb had to convince Hyser that the nudity was essential to making the scene work. I’m sure it must’ve been a comfort for Hyser as an actress to have a supportive female director for that scene.

Just One of the Guys is not the typical 80s teen sex comedy.  It smartly explores societal gender constraints, particularly how teenagers have false ideas of how boys and girls are supposed to act or dress. I appreciated that the film never succumbed to cheap gay jokes. Rick is not disgusted but more confused and ultimately understanding that his friend Terry (who he believes to be a boy) may have a crush on him.  The film’s overall message may be presented in an overtly simplified way, but it is positive. It tells us that how we look or what gender we subscribe to should not necessarily define who we are as a person. Aside from painfully unfunny Star Trek nerds and another geek who carries animals around with him everywhere, Just One of the Guys had me laughing out loud throughout. Just One of the Guys is a charming and wild 1980s teen comedy anchored by Joyce Hyser’s charismatic and unexpectedly committed performance.

by Caroline Madden


carolineCaroline hails from the home state of her hero Bruce Springsteen. Some of her favorite films are Amadeus, King Kong, When Harry Met Sally, Raging Bull, The Godfather, Jaws, and An American Werewolf in London. Her absolute favorite will always be The Lord of the Rings trilogy. 70s/80s era Al Pacino and Robert De Niro are her faves. She blogs even more about her film obsession at cinematicvisions.wordpress.com.

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