Little Darlings (1980)

little darlings

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Competing to lose virginity.

Ferris (Tatum O’Neal) is a prissy girl from a rich family who attends summer camp along with Angel (Kristy McNichol) who’s more brash and streetwise. The two get into a competition to see who can lose their virginity first. The rest of the girls in the camp take sides and place bets.  Angel sets her sights on Randy (Matt Dillon) a cute boy from a neighboring boy’s camp while Ferris goes after Gary (Armand Assante) who is one of the adult camp counselors.

The film is for the most part okay and amounts to nothing more than a slice-of-life glimpse at adolescent girls and the snotty and sometimes peculiar ways that they perceive things. Most movies that portray this age group go too much to one extreme either by showing them as being overly bitchy or too innocent, but this film manages to find just the right balance making their conversations and overall scenarios believable and amusing.

I especially liked Krista Errickson as the spoiled and snobby drama queen Cinder. Normally these types of characters can be quite annoying and overplayed, but Errickson makes it fun and a major plus to the movie.

The film also has a few funny scenes including the one where the girls steal an entire condom dispensing machine from a men’s bathroom and then take it back to camp where they have to smash it with crowbars in order to finally open it. The massive food fight in the cafeteria is a hoot as well.

McNichol is excellent particularly with the way she can become teary-eyed seemingly on cue. I also enjoyed Alexa Kenin an engaging actress that died under mysterious circumstances at the young age of 23 who plays Dana here and helps ‘coach’ the two on what it is like to have sex. This also marks the film debut of Cynthia Nixon playing the hippie girl Sunshine.

The dramatic moments between Angel and Randy help give the film a little more depth and dimension, but also completely ruins the comic momentum. I also felt the film could have been funnier and didn’t take enough advantage of its setting or plot.

The Armand Assante character is another issue. Although he does not have sex with Ferris she does let it get around the camp that he did, which these days would have him fired and thrown into jail before he would even had a chance to defend himself. Although the girls do finally go and tell the truth later on I felt seeing him still working at the camp at the end while acting unblemished from it seemed to be a bit of a stretch.

I was also stunned that this film was given an R-rating. I realize the storyline is a bit titillating, but there is not nudity or sex shown as well as no violence or foul language. The sexual conversations that do occur are never explicit or crude and overall the film has an innocent quality to it.  13 and 14-year-olds do talk and think about sex as they certainly did when I was growing up and that shouldn’t make this an ‘adult movie’.  In fact I think young teens would be the ones to find this movie the most appealing as adults are likely going to consider it rather banal. The R-rating unfairly prevented the target audience from viewing it and showed just how misguided, useless and confusing the rating system can be.

This film has attained quite a cult following namely for the fact that it has never been released onto DVD and most likely never will. Part of the reason for it is because of its musical soundtrack and the licensing agreements that come with. There are some good tunes here including Ian Matthew’s ‘Shake It’ that opens the film as well as Blondie’s ‘One Way or Another’. Unfortunately other classic rock songs that were on the theatrical version failed to make it onto VHS, which is the only format this film can currently be seen on.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: March 21, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated R

Director: Ronald F. Maxwell

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS

3 responses to “Little Darlings (1980)

  1. No PG-13 means subject would be more R than PG.

  2. A better film than you would be led to believe. McNichol is excellent

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