Friday, November 22, 2013

The Last American Virgin

Directed by Boaz Davidson.
1982. Rated R, 92 minutes.
Lawrence Monoson
Diane Franklin
Steve Antin
Joe Rubbo
Louisa Moritz
Kimmy Robertson
Tessa Richarde
Brian Peck

Way back when I myself was a virgin, I stumbled upon this movie late one summer night on HBO. In those days, I spent my break from school with my grandparents. The very first time I tried to watch it, I actually didn’t get very far. In true 1980s teen sex romp fashion, there is a good deal of nudity, particularly early on. What I didn’t know was that, upstairs, my grandfather had also come across this movie. Seconds after the first boob pops out, he appeared at the top of the steps and told me to “Turn off that X-rated show!” The Last American Virgin isn’t really X-rated, but in his eyes nudity was equivalent to hardcore porn. I’m only guessing that he continued to watch himself since I never had enough courage to ask.

As for me, all was not lost. At least in back then, if not still, whatever appeared on HBO would likely be aired at least three or four times a week throughout whichever month it happened to be. I studied the TV guide and memorized a number of the upcoming airtimes. Over the course of the next thirty days, I must have watched this movie a dozen times at all hours of the night. I also saw it a few more times over the next couple of summers. To a curious and horny young boy, it was one of the greatest films ever made. That was thirty years ago. Though I hadn’t seen it since, it was still a piece of my adolescence I could never forget. By now, I figured it was time for a rewatch to see if it really is the sacred cow I’d built it up to be in my head.

After all this time, I once again meet Gary (Monoson). Unfortunately for him, he is the title character. He may not actually be the last virgin in the entire country, but he sure feels like it. Like lots of teenage boys, his entire existence is dedicated to changing that status. Things would probably go a lot easier for him if he weren’t so awkward around the opposite sex. To help him break the seal, so to speak, he has his two bestest buds Rick (Antin) and David (Rubbo), plus the very liberal use of his boss’ car when he is not using it to deliver pizza. We join the boys on their adventures in tail-chasing which includes run-ins with a trio of girls looking to get high, a very horny Latin cougar, a prostitute, and a couple regular girls from their school. Of course, one of them is Karen (Franklin), whom our hero has a very big crush on. Rick, with the help of his boys, trying desperately to get into someone’s pants ensues.

Early on, the movie takes on a sketch-comedy quality as the boys bound from one escapade to the next. All of these are merely to drive home the point that Rick is a ladies’ man, David picks up his left-overs, and something outrageous is going to happen to prevent Gary from getting some. To its credit, these situations are generally funy in the most juvenile way. It’s just believable enough that any of these things could happen that really sells the jokes. Granted, they often happen in a manner that’s way too slapstick, but up until that point we have fun with their sexual misadventures.

Between these, our hero agonizes over Karen whom eventually starts dating Rick. This part of the movie works, but doesn’t come off quite as intended because Lawrence Monoson is not a strong enough actor to pull it off. The script helps him out as it gives us easy pointers on where the emotion should be. Overall, the writing is actually fairly courageous for the genre. It brings up the debate on pro-choice vs. pro-life, and is actually ambiguous enough that its stance is open to interpretation. Perhaps even braver, it does not end the way we expect it to. It’s actually a fairly harsh conclusion, especially for a teen sex comedy. For me, this finish elevates the movie above most of its ilk.

Often, when I go back to movies I loved during my youth I’m sadly disappointed to discover them to be not nearly as good as I thought. Watching The Last American Virgin again, I was bracing for this strong possibility. I must say I was pleasantly surprised. It still makes me laugh and it holds up pretty well. After all, the theme of a boy efforting to lose his virginity is timeless. Aside from that, it manages to include many of the type of antics the genre is known for, but also takes it in a less traveled direction.

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