15 July 2002 | jrs-8
Not just another teen sex romp.
The title would indicate otherwise. When it was released in 1982 I avoided it. At that time filmgoers were deluged with nothing but mad slasher films and teen sex comedies. I wanted nothing to do with it. It didn't last in theaters long enough for me to think twice. Today, after almost two years of prodding from a very close friend, I watched "The Last American Virgin." My feelings are extremely mixed but I must admit there are things I haven't been able to stop thinking about. Most notable is the final 40 minutes of the film which is such an abrupt switch from the first hour I almost can't believe the two halves are part of the same film.
The first hour is the story of 3 friends and their repeated attempts to score with the opposite sex. Interestingly, since the title suggests it, the main character is not given any extra attention to lose his virginity then the other two friends who are obviously not virgins. Our main character is a pizza delivery boy who meets a girl and is immediately attracted to her. But as luck would have it she only has eyes for his best friend, the stud of the group.
The first hour is played mostly for laughs as the boys get into scrapes trying to score with the women. A few of the scenes are amusing. They elicit chuckles but no serious laughter. One particular scene where the boys visit an extremely horny woman only to be interrupted by her boyfriend is fun. An earlier scene where the main character's parents arrive home early from a trip is amusing if not overly original.
But then something happens. At about the hour mark the tone of the film changes. An event occurs out of left field that brings our main character and the girl of his dreams together. From then on they share experiences that are very real and anyone could identify with whether they have ever been in the situation or not. Suddenly the attempt at madcap humor is replaced by real events and real emotions and "The Last American Virgin" turns into a very special movie.
Towards the end our main character finally professes his love to the girl in what may be the best scene ever done in this type of movie. It's strong, emotional, and so well acted that everyone out there knows exactly what the characters feel simply by the looks on their faces. It's truly a great scene.
Now let's talk about the ending without giving anything away. In a word it's brilliant. It makes perfect sense. It is totally real. Again it is a scene that anyone that watches it can identify with. When the credits rolled I was stunned. How the director had the guts to end it as he did is a testament to not playing down on his audience. It probably ends the only way it could. Some people will love it and others may hate it. But it's true to life.
I noticed that I used the word 'real' a lot in describing the last half. That's the only way I know how to describe it. The characters come to life in the second half. I am sure many people can identify with these people during the hijinks filled first half as well. But it's that second half when the director really nails his characters. We end up truly caring about some of them and despising others and hoping for a lot of things to happen. But we have feelings for them all. Credit to the writer (also the director). If only he had made a stronger first half with less comedy and more dealings with real life issues and this film would have been a classic.
I haven't yet mentioned the soundtrack. As one might expect it is filled with late 70's and early 80's hits. Journey's "Open Arms" is played to great effect in the scene when the main character finally spills his guts to the woman of his dreams.
I have never seen this film played on cable nor do I recall it being on DVD. I hope the studio has a change of heart one of these days and brings it back into circulation. I think every teenager should see this film. They'll no doubt be highly amused by the silliness of the first half (though the nudity might turn off concerned parents), but then they will experience learned lessons in the second half that, if they have yet to go through, most likely will in one form or another.
So the final verdict is a terrific final 40 minutes is buried in an average at best teen sex film of the first 60 minutes. Oh how I wish the opening had been as wonderful as the closing. There would be no need to hope for this film to be found. It would be as known as "Say Anything" is.
Seek this film out. If you can get passed the nudity issue I think parents and teenagers could watch this together and experience life as it really is. It's not pat and always what we want. Things happen that we can't control and sometimes things work out the way they are supposed to for reasons we can't understand at the time. It's a lesson we all have learned or will learn in life. And when was the last time you could say you learned that from a teen comedy?