"Foxfire" (1996) , from Johnny Web

This is a female bonding picture, which is basically an exploitation movie with a glossy package.

It is slickly directed and well performed, but ultimately it's just another of those one dimensional us-against-the-world flicks made to target a specific target audience.

In this case, the target is teenaged girls. Everyone in the movie who is not a teenaged girl is an evil and manipulative character. The adults are all pigheaded fools who always stand up for each other and can never recognize the truth no matter how obvious it is. The boys are bullying monsters without conscience, and if you upset them, they'll rape you.

The filmmakers didn't want to shut out the lucrative market of young males, so the female bonding in this movie consists of what female bonding should always consist of in the movies. The women light some candles, take off their tops, and look gorgeous in the candlelight. And, better still, only the ones with really great looking breasts take off their tops, thus making for even closer bonding.

Aristotle had his unities and I have mine. This movie did reasonably well at obeying the Scoopian Unities of Time and Space and Nudity, Unity Seven of which states: (translated from the original ancient Greek)

"Bonding on camera between females shall occur topless whenever such females have really attractive chests"

Unfortunately, the film violated Unity Eight, which states:

"Such bonding also to occur bottomless unless the females in question have really fat, flabby butts or ugly boils or something."


Weak, nerdy girl is molested by Bio teacher.

Who should ride into town but The Girl With No Name (Jolie). Unknown origin, clad in leather, with boots shot in close-up, ala a Sergio Leone western. That Leone theme continues throughout the movie with plenty of squinty-eyed close-ups.

Anyway, Jolie teases the abusive bio teacher in his own classroom, saves a frog from dissection, then exits through the window of his classroom, like Robin Hood taunting Nottingham. Later, at detention, she kicks his frog-dissecting ass when she catches him putting his hands on the shy girl.

Of course, the girls are punished with four weeks suspension by the moronic and arrogant principal, even though they just rescued one girl from being molested, and four other girls witnessed the act. And, of course, the girls accept their punishment without taking the case to their parents or the police because those adults are all part of that adult conspiracy thing.

Later, Jolie kicks the asses of some football bullies and destroys their car. But of course, she is sentenced to juvie hall by an arrogant and moronic judge, even though she simply rescued one of the other girls from a gang-bang.

Then she kidnaps a neglectful abusive father at gunpoint.

Finally, after she has given all nerdy girls everywhere a new sense of empowerment, she sticks out her thumb and rides out of town on an 18 wheeler. Oh, I know that ripping off and modernizing all this imagery from "A Fistful of Dollars" was kind of cheesy, but I thought it worked in an iconic kind of way. I could have bought into it as a neo-Western if it just had a capable script.

When Jolie leaves, the shy girl becomes a confident sexual dynamo, the girl afraid of heights goes tightrope walking on some scary suspension bridge girders, the heroin addict is cured, and everyone's water is turned into wine. The end.

Good script, eh? This is the only film script that Elizabeth White has ever written and, God willing, it will be the last, because the inventive director and the capable cast, working with the raw material of a powerful Joyce Carol Oates novel, could have delivered some punch here - if they only had a real script to work with. You almost wish they could get another chance, because they went to summer film camp and made a bad ash tray from great clay.

There was toplessness from Angelina Jolie, Hedy Burress, and (briefly) Jenny Shimizu.

Box Office: limited release (218 screens) in late August, 1996. Disappeared quickly with less than a million dollars in gross. Actually, this movie might do better if re-released now that Jolie is a name.

IMDB summary: 6.3 out of 10.

DVD info from Amazon. The quality of the DVD transfer is good, but there are no special features worth mentioning.

I did actually read "Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang" by Joyce Carol Oates. It is an excellent book, except for a short epilogue which lacked credibility. (Years later, someone saw Legs in a newspaper picture of a crowd of Cuban revolutionaries)

And it makes perfect sense in a perfectly realistic context. Unlike the movie, the girls didn't live in an abandoned house in upstate New York during the school term (b-r-r-r), and Legs didn't emerge out of nowhere like The Man With No Name, and the boys didn't blindly come to the defense of the child molesting teacher, and Legs wasn't released from Juvie because a girl recanted her testimony.

That was all Hollywoodizing.

Legs was a girl who grew up with the others, they all lived at home with their mommies and daddies at first. Late in the gang's existence, the girls got their own house, but they made a regular old rental deal, and they paid the bills with criminal activities. Legs got out of the Big House only after she served her time.

The casting of Hedy Burress and Angelina Jolie was just inspired, and they could have breathed greatness into the original story, if anybody had decided to stick with it. I suppose they decided that the novel's setting was too uncommercial. Shame.

Oates was born in 1938, and the story begins in 1952, so she used a completely realistic backdrop - she really was a 14 year old girl at the time, and she was writing about an era and a subculture that she knew well. The story takes place in a fictional town near the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. Oates went to college at Syracuse (she was valedictorian), and she knows the upstate area well.

I don't know if I recommend that you read it. It's a serious literary book - the POV is a grown woman looking back on her teenage diaries, and the actual diaries form the basis of the story.

So it isn't a light and breezy read, but it is excellent craftsmanship, and comprehension isn't that elusive (there are no confusing devices like non-linear chronology), if you have a more literary bent. I liked it a lot.

Book info from Amazon. Anyway, here's the link to the paperback version.

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