Strange and Fantastic Tales of the 20th Century is a look back at the weirdest, most memorable, and most off center movies of the 20th century. From head turning horror to oddball science fiction, this column examines the films that will leave a lasting impression for centuries to come.
Did you ever have a cool older sister? Neither did my little sister, but I did have a friend whose sister was the epitome of cool. You know the kind. She’s pretty, a trendsetter, knows the cool music before it becomes mainstream. And she’s nice, even to a non-cool scrub like you. Modern Girls is the film version of this sister. Highly stylish with an incredibly awesome 80’s alternative soundtrack, Modern Girls is the big sister to Sixteen Candles and the other Brat Pack lot.
The 80’s have a very distinct style and atmosphere. We know about The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But we seldom hear about Modern Girls, a 1986 film about three young women and a reluctant man and their night out on the streets of Los Angeles. This week’s strange and fantastic tale stars Daphne Zuniga, Clayton Rohner (swoon), Cynthia Gibb, and Virginia Madsen.
Modern Girls is not like the majority of 80’s comedies. It features three young women in their 20’s. There is no school dance and no jock to crush on. There are just bars, many bars, and wild nightclubs. Modern Girls is a story about young women trying to make it on their own. They work terrible jobs, but have high hopes for what life could be. Meanwhile, they party at night.
Daphne (Zuniga) and Cece (Gibb) are preparing for a night on the town when they are interrupted by Clifford (Rohner). Clifford has arrived to pick up their roommate Kelly (Madsen) for a date, but Kelly has gone out with someone else instead. Daphne and Cece tell Clifford that they can take him to Kelly if he gives them a ride. This is really just a ploy to get Clifford to drive them around to nightclubs. Clifford sees through them, but agrees to go along.
What ensues is a very long night for everyone involved. Kelly is located at a club where she ignores Clifford. She is in love with a DJ who ignores her. The DJ is a douche, but he plays The Jesus and Mary Chain and Depeche Mode. The soundtrack for this film is only rivaled by the Valley Girl soundtrack.
The film does a great job of showing the chaos of a night filled with too many drinks and too many emotions. Directed by Jerry Kramer and written by Laurie Craig and Anita Rosenberg, Modern Girls succeeds in capturing the hopefulness and disappointment of a planned big night.
Kelly has several brushes with assault and is saved before the film can get too dark. Clifford impersonates the famous rock star Kelly is chasing and Margo and Clifford fall in love. The longer the night goes, the group shifts from having an excellent time to having a depressing time and back again.
There’s a scene at one bar that is entertaining because it does a great job with lighting and ambience. All the characters look bored and like they should be going home. Everyone in their twenties knows that this is when the party is truly getting started. Scene bonus: Pamela Springsteen, my favorite Angela Baker of Sleepaway Camp 2 and 3 makes a cameo.
Modern Girls has great performances. Virginia Madsen is wonderful and displays the talent that has followed her around since. Daphne Zuniga and Cynthia Gibb are so delightful you will want to hang out with them. Clayton Rohner is charming as the straight laced Clifford, but he also plays hip British rocker Bruno X. Rohner is playing the leading this man in this film and it begs the question, why wasn’t he bigger in the 80’s?
Rohner has had a very successful career, but he is effortlessly charismatic in Just One of the Guys and I, Madman. It feels like his star should have been bigger than the 80’s men of Tiger Beat magazine. Modern Girls boils down to a very modern and funny film that’s clever and fun to watch. This is also my second column in a row where I swoon over Clayton Rohner. Put on your elbow length gloves and try to be cool for just about 90 minutes. Get drunk and watch Modern Girls.
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