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Modern Girls

Kino // PG-13 // October 20, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Tyler Foster | posted October 5, 2015 | E-mail the Author
For every handful of Kino Lorber Studio Classics discs featuring films that probably could've been left in the golden years of DVD catalog titles, there's one oddball gem that makes it worth sifting through everything else. Modern Girls is an extremely '80s comedy from one of the decade's staple genres: the "one crazy night" comedy (hey, even Martin Scorsese made one). A goofy romp that follows three beautiful "modern girls" and one hapless would-be date around L.A. as they hunt for a moody English rock star, the movie is rough around the edges, but it has an enthusiasm that's ultimately winning, and it's always unpredictable.

The three girls in question are dark, brooding Margo (Daphne Zuniga), perpetually positive Cece (Cynthia Gibb), and the blonde, statuesque Kelly (Virginia Madsen). All three struggle through the daily grind at jobs that vaguely reflect their personality (Margo at a call center, Cece at a makeup counter, and Kelly at a pet store, where balding businessmen buy multiple puppies with hearts in their eyes), all dreaming of yet another Friday night when they can hit the town and hunt for guys. They even have a standard code of conduct: never stand in line, never buy your own drinks, and never stand next to a dweeb. This Friday night, however, Kelly's gone before Margo and Cece are ready, and she's taken the car with her. Luckily, they have the hapless Cliff (Clayton Rohner), who shows up for a date with Kelly only to turn into Margo and Cece's ride.

As any connoisseur of "one crazy night" films knows, traversing the L.A. nightlife won't just be an adventure, it will feel like another universe entirely, a parade of oddballs and nutjobs that border on cartoon characters. At their first club, Cece runs into her dream man, the British rock star Bruno X (also Rohner), and much to her surprise, his interest in her is instantaneous. Unfortunately, an unexpected raid sends everyone off in different directions, forcing Margo, Cece, and Cliff to chase after him, while also trying to track down Kelly before she gets herself into trouble. Distractions include a trio of identical white limos that drive off in opposite directions, a food fight in a tropical club, the filming of a music video, a tour bus decked out in Wonder Bread branding, at least one abandoned vehicle, and a number of creeps and weirdos also hanging around.

Summarizing Modern Girls' appeal without simply repeating the jokes runs the risk of making the film sound simple: the girls themselves are the appeal, full of spirit and determination to have a good night flirting and having fun. Certainly, there are wacky comedy compatriots offering more plot, but few are particularly deep, and it would be wrong to take the movie to task for failing to accomplish something that isn't even being attempted. Charm mileage will naturally vary, but both Zuniga and Gibb are extremely endearing, creating a fun tennis match of optimism and pessimism. Zuniga is wry, and Gibb is goofy. Both make a good foil for Rohner, who is frustrated at first by what he believes is selfishness, but eventually discovers is self-preservation. The girls want to have fun because real life is predictable, and who can really blame someone for wanting to have a blast on a Friday night? The film never achieves a crackling comic repartee, but its imperfections are part of its charm, and the script by Anita Rosenberg and Laurie Craig is consistently inventive.

If there's any one misstep in Modern Girls, the script does take some surprisingly dark turns with the Kelly character, who struggles with rejection from a popular DJ (Stephen Shellen), getting high to take the edge off. In one scene, she lays herself out on a pool table and an entire bar of men approach the table, surrounding it, and when her friends drag her away, they follow her outside, watching as she goes. Later, she finds a rebound guy (Chris Nash), who intentionally separates her from her friends and clearly is not going to take no for an answer before they catch up with him and beat him up. On one hand, these scenes don't quite jive with the movie's over-the-top tone, especially considering that both, to some degree, are played for laughs. Then again, it could just as easily be viewed a fairly biting observation that even three fun-loving friends have to have each others' backs.

The Blu-ray
Modern Girls arrives with its 1960s comic book pop-art poster intact. At a glance, it seems like a great example of style over substance, yet after seeing the movie I looked at it again and was startled to see it actually does depict things that happen in the movie. Whether or not it's effective marketing is up for debate, but it does fit the film. The single-disc release comes in a non-eco Blu-ray Viva Elite case, and there is no insert.

The Video and Audio
Presented in 1.85:1 1080p AVC, this is another workable effort from Kino Lorber, this time on behalf of 20th Century Fox. The most important element of a movie like Modern Girls is the movie's vivid, wide-ranging color palette, and fans can rest assured that each teal and pink hue is as bright and well-saturated as they've ever been. Detail is adequate to good for a high-definition transfer, although nothing registers as truly eye-popping. Grain fluctuates greatly from shot to shot, even during the movie's many nighttime sequences. Sometimes the grain borders on a noisy appearance, and sometimes it's hardly visible. Print damage is occasionally noticeable, but on the reasonable side compared to some other KL transfers.

Sound is a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, which holds up reasonably well given the film has a long list of atmospheric clubs and bars and all sorts of goofy hijinks to cover. Music, of course, sounds especially good, including a soundtrack populated by '80s hits, and dialogue sounds clean and clear. English subtitles are also provided.

The Extras
One new extra has been drummed up for this release: an interview with co-star Clayton Rohner (5:30). Sadly, Rohner doesn't have very much to say about the movie, chatting briefly on the costumes and style, trying to remember the premiere, and reminiscing about having to share a trailer with the three leading ladies. He seems oddly dismissive of the experience in the interview, saying that the film's only fans are those obsessed with the '80s. It's not meant to be malicious, but it reads like he's writing the movie off.

An original theatrical trailer is also included.

Modern Girls is a strange, entertaining romp of a film, one driven less by plot and more by character, most of which comes through in the form of the simple desire to have a great weekend, to meet a cute guy, and party until dawn. Although it occasionally borders on darkness, Modern Girls is like its characters in that all it wants to do is have a good time, and a genuine one at that. Kino Lorber's Blu-ray gets a decent presentation and even a new supplement, even if it's surprisingly brief. Recommended.

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