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‘The Last American Virgin’ (Blu-ray review)

Produced by Yoram Globus,
Menahem Golan, David Womark

Written and Directed by Boaz Davidson
Starring Lawrence Monoson, Diane Franklin,
Steve Antin, Joe Rubbo, Louisa Moritz

 

The Last American Virgin is a 1982 American-Israeli sex comedy directed by Boaz Davidson remaking his own 1978 Israeli film Lemon Popsicle and starring Lawrence Monsoon, Diane Franklin, and Steve Antin.

The film centers around Gary (Monsoon) whose hapless attempts to get laid with his two friends give way to real heartbreak when he and his best friend Rick (Antin) both fall for new girl Karen (Franklin).

I’m not generally a fan of coming of age sex comedies which trade on the humiliation of its protagonist as its stock-in-trade, but The Last American Virgin is a cut above the usual fare.

Director Boaz Davidson updates and remakes his semi-autobiographical Israeli film Lemon Popsicle and the film has both a sexual honesty, and a downbeat romantic longing that combine to make it a far richer stew than most American teen comedies.

Case in point: the film opens with Gary and his buddies luring three girls to Gary’s house with the promise of cocaine. They serve them artificial sweetener, and the girls respond with their part of the unspoken agreement by making out but Gary’s parents return from their night out before he can seal the deal. At once, you’re taken a little aback by the frankness with which these movie teens discuss hard drugs and sex over the cool synth soundtrack, for an audience that looked at stuff like Superbad as refreshing in its honesty, this film is even another level.

The film has an episodic structure involving schemes to get laid that benefit Gary’s friends but always leave him high and dry through the first act. They try to hire a streetwalker, they go and see a lonely wife whose husband is out and is looking for more than pizza delivery. The laughs are sophomoric but feel genuine and heartfelt, with an authenticity that very few teen films had then and seemingly none have now.

All this flows to one of the greatest soundtracks ever in a film: The Police, The Cars, Devo, The Waitresses just to name a few. Coming of age films must evoke a period of time to be successful and this film feels like New Wave in every frame. The 80’s were a very special time for films about young people where they could believably display a degree of independence from their parents and could find themselves in problems with adult stakes. This film has that in spades.

Eventually the hijinks subside and as the film focuses on the central love triangle between Gary, his much smoother friend Rick, and Karen the girl who has caught both their eyes, we get to what makes the film special and still remembered to this day. I don’t want to spoil the third act because it contains a pair of gut punching twists that have caused the film to be held in high regard to this day, but I do want to talk about the emotion that underpins them.

All coming of age stories have a bittersweet quality to them as we collectively remember the moments we grew and changed but The Last American Virgin is one of the only teen films that captures the longing, loss, and cosmic unfairness that you can feel when your heart is held hostage in high school.

This isn’t Wong Kar Wei but that sense of exposing the wounds of adolescence to everyone, gives depth and texture to the sexual hijinx of the opening act. For that reason above all others, I would give this a top recommendation as a film to go back and revisit.

3½ out of 5.

 

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