“If I told you I loved you would you take it the wrong way?”
One of my favorite pastimes when I’m home with nothing to do is scroll through the 80s and 90s offerings on Amazon Prime looking for movies I had missed until now. I had plenty of time to do this last week when I was home sick with the flu, and one of the movies I happened upon was Foxfire. I was vaguely familiar with it. I knew it was an early Angelina Jolie vehicle, and that she was in a brief relationship with one of the other stars, Jenny Shimizu, but I didn’t know much else about it except it involved a girl gang of some sort. I decided to check it out and what I discovered was that this movie is a perfect encapsulation of the mid-90s arty teen movie aesthetic.
First, the setting. This movie takes place in the suburbs of Portland. You get all of the shots you’d expect from this setting: bridges crossing the Willamette River, skate parks, and young junkies hanging out under overpasses. The original setting in the Joyce Carol Oates novel was upstate New York in the 1950s, and it makes perfect sense to update it to the Pacific Northwest for the 90s. Seattle would have been the obvious choice, so they win hipster points for going with Portland instead.
The cast is *chef’s kiss.* The movie featured two 90s It Girls, the aforementioned Jolie and Shimizu. This was released the year after Hackers and for the character of Legs Angelina is sporting the same hair and attitude as in that movie. Her wardrobe is much more muted because this is the dour, grey, grunge Northwest. Neon is for techno-anarchists. If the name Jenny Shimizu doesn’t ring a bell to you, she was an androgynous supermodel who was huge in the 90s. In addition to having a fling with Jolie she used to hook up with Madonna. Most of the girls in the movie have difficult home lives but hers is the gritty one featuring abuse and in a pretty stark nod to the times she becomes a heroin user. Singles and Reality Bites didn’t show you that! Portland- Drugstore Cowboy and Foxfire, heroin. Seattle- Singles and Reality Bites, no heroin. She also experiences shockingly few consequences as a result of her intravenous drug use, which, c’mon Foxfire. Trainspotting this is not. Other notables include star of The Wizard and Troop Beverly Hills and soon to be indie rock goddess and Manic Pixie Dream Woman Jenny Lewis. She even briefly sings so I think this technically counts as Rilo Kiley’s first gig. Fake Tom Cruise Peter Facinelli shows glimpses of his Fake Tom Cruiseness to come in Can’t Hardly Wait as well as glimpses of his butt in the opening scene before disappearing completely halfway through the movie. The movie also features major favorite of mine, Bash Brother and Ol’ Foggy Nelson himself Eldon Hensen in a minor role, and incredible 90s actor name Dash Mihok in a minor role as a major piece of shit.
While we’re on the subject of Dash, he and a group of football players decide the best way to teach protagonist Maddie Wirtz a lesson for blowing the whistle on a sexually abusive teacher is attempted abduction and gang rape. The girls get blamed for the aftermath until Dash’s girlfriend admits she lied in court. This is after the movie kicks off with them getting three weeks of detention for reporting the pervert teacher, because back in the 90s nobody believes women, proving that blaming the victims is an evergreen topic. Jesus.
On to lighter 90s tropes.
Oversized overalls? Check
Roller blades? That’s a big 10-4
AOL style chat room? You bet
The soundtrack is Luscious Jackson, L7, Mazzy Star, Filter, Candlebox, and other bands that seemingly winked out of existence after Y2K. “You” is still a jam in my opinion.
The main character Maddie is a photographer who takes arty black and white photos because of course she is and it’s a good thing because this plays a major part in the most 90s arty teen movie set-piece I’ve ever seen.
Candles, flowers, and photos, oh my!
This movie also features a plot of course but honestly I was too busy drowning in the aesthetics to get very invested in it. I will say that the climax involves Jenny Lewis accidentally shooting Jenny Shimizu’s dad with a gun that Angelina Jolie earlier pointed at Jenny Shimizu and then had the gall to yell at her for semi-jokingly making suicide comments while conveniently forgetting that she had just aimed a freaking gun at her. I guess all of these people missed the episode of 90210 where David’s friend Scott accidentally shot himself because nobody calls Angelina out for her cavalier gun play.
The movie ends with Maddie doing voice over because legally you weren’t allowed to end movies like this any other way during that time period. Maddie has “traveled since, half the world.” Traveling half the world was something that Gen X-ers did and no young people have been able to afford to do since.
That was Foxfire. As a movie it’s fine I guess, but as a time capsule of my teen years it is a masterpiece.
What movie best encompasses the 90s for you? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
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