Little Darlings (1980)

RON MAXWELL

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.  USA, 1980.  .  Story by , Screenplay by Kimi Peck, .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Matt Dillon and Kristy McNichol in Little Darlings.

Teenage girls are sent to summer camp, and the snotty sophisticate among them mouths off about how her lack of virginity makes her superior to them all.  She captures the ear of a spoiled heiress () and a juvy rebel case (), the two of them instantly sparking up a rivalry that has them bet that they can beat each other to the punch of initiating their sexuality before the other.  After settling into their bunk beds and enjoying a few cookouts, they get to the task of making it happen, O’Neal setting her eyes on the camp’s swoony athletic coach () and McNichol training her eye on a boy from across the lake ( in his second film).  Early eighties films set at summer camps are a genre unto themselves, particularly ones where teenagers deal with the angst of sexual exploration in a comical manner, with this one having the rare distinction of focusing on young women.  What’s more surprising than the subject matter (it’s actually quite raw for a film about and for young people) is that it has moments of genuine sweetness, particularly in the sincere and affecting performance by McNichol as the girl who makes it to the land of adult behaviour and realizes that there is value in not rushing to get there.  O’Neal doesn’t fare as well, giving a shallow performance that barely registers, but the sunny locales and a script that never tries too hard to be clever or silly make for a fun and perceptive film.  Where it falters is in not blending its elements well, seeming at turns to change its mind about whether it wants to be thoughtful or bawdy and not quite seamlessly incorporating the two; McNichol’s intelligent understanding of the realities behind shallow teenage behaviour will have to suffice for quality on this one.  Look for in her first film role as the hippie daughter who has the world’s largest collection of headbands.

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