Jessica Rothe Dazzles in This Musical Remake of 80’s Hit ‘Valley Girl’

Orion Pictures

Jessica Rothe is on the rise and with each new project she is showing off the range and depth of her talents. Having played one of Emma Stone’s roommates in 2016’s Oscar-winning musical La La Land, Rothe finds herself centre stage of the musical remake of 1983’s Valley Girl. Granted this is not the Oscar-winning vehicle that will launch Rothe into the stratosphere of superstardom, but hopefully, it will be a project that adequately showcases her leading lady qualities.

Trading in her scream queen vocals in Happy Death Day for musical ones Rothe plays Julie Richman. Julie is our titular Valley Girl who longs for more; more opportunities to leave the Valley, more options for her future, and more desirable choices for romantic partners. Unfortunately, Logan Paul plays Julie’s jock boyfriend Mickey, and cannot be avoided. His presence is simultaneously annoying and nauseating as he is startlingly out of his league compared to the talented actors in the ensemble and awkwardly stands out in the exaggerated 80’s aesthetic. English actor Josh Whitehouse, who plays the punk rocker Randy is a welcome change, and you could not root harder for him to wow Julie away from Mickey. You may recognise Whitehouse as the titular Knight in Netflix’s The Knight Before Christmas, and here he proves that he certainly has got the lovelorn outsider act down.

Orion Pictures

Valley Girl is surprisingly enjoyable, albeit a bit corny. However, that is very much the charm of the film. It’s schlocky fun dressed in the best and worst 80s trends. Amy Talkington’s script and Rachel Lee Goldenberg’s direction lean into the comical and exaggerated representation of the 80s; its never believable but reminiscent of the idealised decade depicted in the films of that era of teen dramedies. Assuming the production was working on a micro-budget Goldenberg manages to capture an earnest depiction of this picturesque time-capsule from its fashions, music, and speech. It is very clear that Goldenberg is working with a number of limitations that prevent a full-blown recreation, but she does enough to allow us to accept the world.

It helps that the framing device of the film is Older Julie, played by Alicia Silverstone, recounting the story of her past to her daughter in modern times. Through that narrative framework, the aesthetic and feel of the movie play like an embellished memory of the 80s rather than an actual authentic depiction. It is a fine line to walk, but Goldenberg and company manage to do it.

The ensemble is game to put on a show, embracing the fashion and hair with wide smiles and enthusiastic performances. It’s a talented bunch of young actors, each of whom have bright futures ahead. Of course, our stars Rothe and Whitehouse carry the bulk of the movie on their shoulders and do a lot to make their one-dimensional characters feel lively. With great chemistry, enthusiasm, and decent singing abilities, the pair make it work.

Orion Pictures

Speaking of singing, Ashleigh Murray  is clearly the most talented vocalist in the ensemble, which overshadows and distracts from Rothe’s more subtle vocal skills. However, Murray has her one-off musical moment and quickly fades into the background which bodes well for our leading lady. Between this, Murray’s stint on Riverdale, and her current gig on Katy Keene, her talents are not being given the respect and platform it deserves. Valley Girl just makes it glaringly more obvious.

Overall, the film is enjoyable. The musical is carried by the most famous 80’s tunes that have had incredible staying power. It will be hard-pressed to find anyone who can’t recall at least 75% of these songs or be able to acknowledge they sound familiar. The whole thing is corny and over the top in ways that will induce several eye rolls, but you will still bob your head along with the music. At times, one will wonder if turning the remake into a musical is wise, but it helps to differentiate it from the original to make it it’s own thing to an extent.

Valley Girl will be available on VOD from May 8th

by Ferdosa Abdi

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