This week on The Chris Vernon Show my "Movies" list was Teen Romantic Comedies, based on I Love You, Beth Cooper, which is new (if not quite big) at the box office.
The result is probably the most Eighties-centric list I've done. More recent teen comedies are disappointingly broad and I don't think there was much good that fits the genre from earlier — Beach Blanket Bingo? Love Finds Andy Hardy? The Eighties, of course, were a golden age of sorts for teen cinema.
1. Say Anything (1989): Cameron Crowe's first and still best film, about the unlikely summer (and then some?) fling between valedictorian Diane Court ("a brain trapped in the body of a game-show hostess") and shiftless everyman kickboxer Lloyd Dobler. The leads, as played by Ione Skye and John Cusack, are indelible. But there's plenty of great stuff around the edges in one of the movies' very best portraits of high-school (or post-high-school) life, including a terrific Lily Taylor as Lloyd's best friend and the all-time-classic gas-station-parking-lot scene. A remarkably smart and kind teen comedy.
2. Pretty in Pink (1986): John Hughes' most memorable teen fairy tale, with a rich kid (Andrew McCarthy) and a girl from the poor side of town (Molly Ringwald) trying to come together despite the resistance of their respective friends. James Spader isn't really plausible as a high-school kid, but Jon Cryer is, and Harry Dean Stanton and Annie Potts are about as good as adults get in these movies. Great music, from the off-the-era Pyschedelic Furs and OMD on the soundtrack to Cryer's Duckie delivering an epic lip-sync performance of Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness."
3. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008): Michael Cera and Kat Dennings in a modern teen entry in the venerable City As Plaything film genre (see also: L'Atalante, The Clock, Dogfight, Before Sunrise, Les Amants du Pont-Neuf). Happily ignores the class-conflict stuff that is de riguer for teen romances and just throws two nice, interesting young people together as they try to figure each other out. Missed it the first time around, but caught up with it on DVD. A real sleeper. Incidentally, directed by Peter Sollet, who did the fine indie film Raising Victor Vargas. Sollet is clearly really good with teen subject matter and might be an emerging auteur.
4. Valley Girl (1983): Director Martha Coolidge turns a passing cultural fad into a sneaky-good teen romantic comedy, with engaging lead performances from Valley girl Deborah Foreman (rarely heard from again) and Hollywood punk Nicholas Cage (heard from too much, probably).
5. The Sure Thing (1985): Truly a one-of-a-kind cinematic event: An underrated Rob Reiner movie. Four years before When Harry Met Sally, Reiner made a much better romantic comedy with this story of a pair of mismatched freshman at a Northeastern college — sarcastic, sloppy John Cusack and prim, ostensibly humorless Daphne Zuniga — become reluctant partners in a cross-country trip. Essentially ’80s teen flick as It Happened One Night update. Sweet, smart, funny, and not too over-the-top.