This '80s coming-of-age tale is a movie of lost opportunities. Unlike the 1982 Fast Times at Ridgemont High, there are no truly admirable characters here. Julie's ex-hippie parents are the closest thing to role models because they want their daughter to make her own decisions uninfluenced by social pressures. Like its teen subjects, Valley Girl is superficial and scattered. Even when it seems as if we're going to see Julie show some spine, the next scene depicts a complete capitulation to peer pressure. That feels like a gap in the filmmaking process, as if some crucial explanatory sequence was left on the cutting room floor, or, worse yet, never shot at all. It often feels as if the writers and director missed chances to show the kind of character depth that helps engage an audience. Julie seems cruel when she breaks up with her boorish and egomaniacal boyfriend. The break seems to mean nothing to her. Later she takes up with him again as if she hadn't insensitively dropped him, and when she drops him again, we care so little about her that it makes no difference that she's finally chosen a better guy. By this time, we also have to wonder why the better guy even likes Julie.
Those who grew up in the '80s may enjoy a soundtrack that includes Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way," as well as songs by Men at Work, the Plimsouls, the Payolas, and The Flirts. On the plus side, Foreman and Cage manage to realistically portray the excitement of young lovers who can barely tear themselves away from each other. But similarities aside, Romeo and Juliet this is not. Only Julie's friends refuse to accept Randy, not the other way around. The many visual and contextual references to the famed 1967 film The Graduate -- including an attraction between a teen and his girlfriend's mother and the final shot as the couple ride off into a hopeless future -- also fail or make no useful point. Enjoy Nicolas Cage at age 20. He's a riveting presence, laying the groundwork for the passionate, earnest, and endlessly watchable outsider he would later play in Moonstruck.