You know you're in trouble when a filmmaker asks you to accept Donna Summer's "On the Radio" – earnestly, it must be noted – as an emotional lynchpin to a movie. You know you're really in trouble when the song has been used more than a few times before the first half is over. (And don't try to tell me that it's okay because the film was made in 1980, because, frankly, that sort of thing is never okay.) Such is the case with Foxes, the teen drama directed by Adrian Lyne, which seemed to possess all the makings for a gleefully cheesy revisit some two decades after its initial release. Unfortunately, it ultimately reneges on that promise by taking itself far too seriously, although it does provide the occasional inadvertent laugh and features some typically solid work by the preternaturally mature Jodie Foster.
Foster plays Jeanie, a sort of leader (or at least a semi-adult figure, by virtue of her high-waist khakis and generally middle-aged demeanor) of four teenage girls who find themselves in varying degrees of substance abuse, suffering a lack of parental involvement, and negotiating their budding sexuality (rest assured, however, that our Jeanie is no "Susie slut," and thank goodness for that). The group includes Madge (Marilyn Kagan), the bespectacled nice girl who happens to be involved with Jay (Randy Quaid), a much, much older man (more on that later); Deirdre (Kandice Stroh), the faux-sophisticate and boy crazy one; and Annie (Cherie Currie, ex-Runaways bandmate and greatly underused here), who is clearly troubled by an abusive father and a dire need to escape her situation by any means necessary. Also within their orbit is Brad (Scott Baio), a skateboard type who employs quite the pottymouth (Chachi knows bad words? Cool.)
Foxes revels in its period trappings, such as Giorgio Moroder's overwrought score, complete with the occasional fat-bass porno thumping, gauzy cinematography, and bad arena bands (Angel here, warbling something about "20th Century Foxes" or some such). Foxes is a classic bait and switch – it promises a tawdry, gritty exposé on the lives of four teenage girls awash in sex, drugs, and rock n' roll ("They dare to do what others dream of... they're foxes!" – okay, I'll play). Unfortunately, it is hampered by its schizophrenic conception and execution. Director Lyne, whose self-conscious "style" affords most of his films the shelf-life of yogurt at room temperature, bathes his plucky young women in that awful soft lighting that suggests both cheesy "innocence" and really bad "glamour" photography. Moreover, for a film that seems to aspire to be a cautionary tale of lives lived recklessly, Lyne is unable to resist filming the girls in various stages of undress, complete with a rather queasy shot of two of the girls' posteriors as they are bending over (courtesy of a zoom, in case one could not already notice). As such, it is impossible to ascertain what Lyne was hoping to accomplish – a condemnation of reckless youth or a celebration of it? He is not the sort of director who could handle both simultaneously (he is usually far too facile), so more than likely he was cynically looking for a hit at the expense of his young and willing cast.
Viewing the film from the vantage point of a post-Larry Clark (Kids, Bully) cinematic world of adolescents and teens, Foxes' depiction of wayward youth is fairly tame, although its subtext is disturbing for all the wrong reasons. Foxes is unable to resist the formulaic punishing of one of (at least) the four, but even more distasteful is the celebration it affords another, especially when it accomplishment is noteworthy only for the avoidance of an investigation and probable incarceration. Moreover, its failure to explore teenage anomie other than superficially (Divorce! Bad parents!) is rivaled only by its deep disdain for adults, especially in the form of Jeanie's mother Mary (Sally Kellerman). Mary is single, unhappy, and takes on lovers as she pleases. Naturally, this is adjudged to be a bad thing by the filmmakers who, after giving her the opportunity to chastise her daughter and her friends ("You're like a bunch of short 40-year-olds..."), have her throw in her envy for their physiques ("You make me hate my hips!") Ghastly, and there's a lot more to it than I even care to mention.
Aside from Foster's generally steady performance (which, interestingly, shows some of the mannerisms that continue to inform her work to this day) and the very idea of Chachi (I mean Baio) swearing, wearing a tuxedo t-shirt, and artfully dodging bad guys with his skateboard, there is very little to recommend here. I cannot even recommend the "debauchery" on display, as its idea of teens gone nuts consists of alluding to drugs, fist fights and the like. If Jodie Foster's Iris from Taxi Driver happened onto this movie, she would have smeared the screen with these amateurs.
Video: Presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio 1.85:1, Foxes appears far too soft. Lyne's traditionally gauzy / hazy shooting style is somewhat to blame, but very little definition and color saturation is also apparent. Black levels fluctuate from decent to poor, and overall it is a disappointment.
A full screen version of the film is also included for those so inclined.
Audio: Foxes includes a DD 2.0 mono mix which is also disappointing. The mix is hollow and somewhat tinny, and the dialogue (in all its glorious inadequacy) is at times difficult to hear. The soundtrack suffers from lack of depth as well – I mean, if you're gonna include Boston's "More Than a Feeling" in the soundtrack, you had better crank it up.
Foxes also includes Spanish and French 2.0 mono soundtracks, as well as English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Extras: On board is the trailer for Foxes (2:10), which is notable in that it actually makes the film look enjoyable and lasts about 104 minutes less than the feature itself.
Final Thoughts: Horribly dated and possessing all the hallmarks of an Adrian Lyne film (never a good thing), Foxes almost – this is crucial – succeeds in the "so bad it's good" department. The true shortcoming of the film, however, is the lack of depth given Cherie Currie's Annie. Currie, who as a teenager played in the Runaways (alongside Lita Ford and Joan Jett), had a troubled early life and has been able – from what I have read – to recover. She now works as a counselor, and that is great news. Foxes could have benefited greatly from her experiences and delivered a film that could have accomplished what it apparently (perhaps) aspired to. I imagine that Currie has lived through – and seen things – that Foxes and its makers (Lyne, screenwriter Gerald Ayres, et al.) could not even dream of in their most shameful moments.
Recommended only to fans of Foster, Currie, and those with the most morbid of curiosities.