The Last American Virgin
Nostalgia is a potent emotion, as much as it can transport you back to your younger days it’s equally able to ask questions of just what your younger self was thinking. This contrast defines everything about The Last American Virgin, Arrow Film & Video’s latest Blu-ray release. Directed by Tel-Aviv born Boaz Davidson, it’s hardly the work of a renowned name in cinema. Davidson has had more success as an executive producer during the past few years than he did as a director of countless lacklustre titles between the early 70s and late 90s; the Last American Virgin is one of his directorial highlights.
Living under the shadow of classics like Animal House and (to a lesser degree) Porky’s, Last American Virgin is a sex comedy that follows Gary (Lawrence Monoson), Rick (Steve Antin) and David (Joe Rubbo) as they try to get laid each and every night. The three move from skit to skit, with plenty of flesh on display and occasionally they get lucky to hilarious effects. Or so that’s the theory, the one thing Davidson’s film utterly fails in, is its comedic aspirations. From one gag to the next, this is a densely plotted film. After all it’s one of the many film that teenagers watched during the 80s to see some flesh on display, this was way before the internet served such a purpose so films like this thrived back then.
Then Karen (Diane Franklin) turns up causing one-sided friction between Gary (the quiet one), the friend who saw her first and instantly falls in love with, and Rick (the “ladies’ man”) who has Karen clambering all over him after one slow dance. On paper this doesn’t sound the most interesting of plot beats; nonetheless it’s this aspect of the film that turns in the more interesting material during the third act. In which pregnancy and abortion come clattering into a film that had no interest in anything of any dramatic weight, until this point. It could be argued that this doesn’t fit the tone of the film, and its true this 180 comes from nowhere. Yet it makes the film interesting to a first time viewer divorced from the era. Last American Virgin changes its tact from lust to consequences leading the film towards a brutally honest last moment that has rarely, if ever, been replicated since.
As a new viewer one observation is impossible to evade, The Last American Virgin is nothing without nostalgia. This film screams 1980s from the rooftops. To compare it with a similarly retro film in Dazed & Confused, Linklater’s film may not be comic but it stands up today because it doesn’t commit itself to the era, it commits itself to the story. The Last American Virgin on the other hand commits itself to the era through fashion & music. The fashion goes without saying, but the music, that has been billed as a big selling point for Davidson. Barely a second goes by where there isn’t a pop song playing in the background, lending something of a MTV aesthetic. This does highlight the amazing soundtrack, however, cinematically it’s like being prodded by the guy from the marketing department, telling us to look over here because you can also buy this great record. If the 1980s missed any footnote it’s the adage that less is more.
For those that grew up with Boaz Davidson’s The Last American Virgin, it’s never looked better and revisiting those old childhood friends will surely be followed by a huge grin on your face. That soundtrack, too, it plays like the perfect compilation to the late 70s and 80s, rose tinted lenses have nothing to do with this – good pop music is good pop music regardless of age. Without that same nostalgia, there’s little beyond that sobering finale for a new viewer to attach to, The Last American Virgin will not play well with new viewiers. Let’s be fair though, this release isn’t exactly for the uninitiated – its for those kids of the 1980s who grew up with Gary, Rick and David. And those kids of the 80s will be fantastically well served with a print that sees the film look better and sound better than it ever has.