Turn Back The Clock

Movie Review


Distributed By: Rysher Entertainment

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            So many people I know fast forward through (or skip completely) the previews on their video rentals.  Even I have been known to do this if the preview is something I’ve seen over and over again on television or in the theater.  But if the preview is something that I haven’t seen before, I’m likely to pay it some attention, just in case this might be a movie I would want to rent later.  After all, this is how I found one of my favorite movies.  A preview found on a forgettable video rental pointed me in the direction of a little heard of movie called Foxfire and the rest was history.

            Foxfire is loosely…and I stress loosely as I have read the novel…on a book by Joyce Carol Oates entitled Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang.  In the movie version, high school student Madeline Wirtz has all the important high school bases covered.  She knows where she wants to go to college, what she wants to study when she gets there and she has a boyfriend who shares her interests and her dreams for the future.  She travels through school life believing that she has a leg up on everyone there – that she has it all together – until a stranger comes to town, throwing Maddie into a tailspin and changing her life forever.

            When Margaret “Legs” Sadowski enters Maddie’s biology class on that fateful rainy day, she intends to blend in and dry off.  But what she witnesses occurring between teacher and football coach Lloyd Buttinger and student Rita Faldes infuriates her.  It seems that Coach Buttinger has a penchant for young high school girls and detention is where he gets his kicks.  Legs inspires Maddie, Rita and Violet (another of Buttinger’s victims) to fight back and end Buttinger’s abuse.  Things get out of hand and Rita, Maddie, Violet and Goldie (who only walked in on the tail end of things) find themselves suspended for three weeks as a result.

            But the girls are now bonded through their act of rebellion…bonded with this mysterious stranger who begins to open their eyes to the world and their power to control their own very special part of it.  As the bond between the five girls grows stronger, Maddie begins to question everything she once thought she knew for certain.  As she gets closer to Legs, she’s no longer certain that the life she planned for is the life she actually wanted.  Legs inspires Maddie and the others to take risks they never would have taken on their own.

            Unfortunately, when Coach Buttinger is fired, members of the high school football team make it their business to take care of the “gang” of girls who caused his termination.  When an attempted attack on one of the girls goes horribly wrong, it threatens to tear apart the bonds that once so tightly held the girls together.

            When I first saw the preview for Foxfire, I was immediately impressed by the strength of the characters in the film.  In those couple of minutes of footage, I saw characters that I could relate to and a storyline that was incredibly interesting.  I rented the movie the following week and was pleased to discover that the previews hadn’t misled me.  In fact, the movie met my every expectation and then some.

            Foxfire stars a very young Angelina Jolie in an incredibly powerful performance as the troubled Legs Sadowsky.  I had already seen Jolie in Hackers and had been unimpressed by her acting abilities in that film.  Then I saw Foxfire and my opinion of Jolie completely changed.  This was such an incredibly intense and emotional performance that I just knew this Angelina Jolie person was going to be an actress worth watching in the future.  “You have to see this movie,” I told anyone who would listen.  “Angelina Jolie is definitely going places,” I said.  Wow, did I ever call that one, huh?!

            Foxfire marks the movie debut of Hedy Burress as Maddie Wirtz.  Now, this is an actress whose talent has been wasted over the years.  Burress’s character’s transformation in Foxfire was an emotional and poignant one.  I felt that Burress’ acting in this film was honest and pure and it’s unfortunate that I haven’t seen that emotion or fire in any of her later roles.  Former child actress Jenny Lewis portrays quirky, shy Rita Faldes in such a way as to endear her to the viewer.  We love watching as Rita opens up to her friends and grows more confident as the movie progresses.  Lewis has since focused her attention on music.  We get a glimpse of her singing voice in Foxfire and I applaud her choice. 

            Former model Jenny Shimizu also makes her movie debut in Foxfire as Goldie Goldman and her performance is laudable.  On the surface, Goldie is just a pothead, but as we get to know Goldie, we discover that there’s a reason for her drug usage.  Shimizu did an excellent job expressing the inner pain of the character she portrayed.  Sarah Rosenberg does a good job playing Violet Kahn, a sexually mature girl with a reputation to match.  John Diehl is simply sleazy as the perverted Coach Buttinger.  Chris Mulkey is despicable as Goldie’s father.  Also featured are early performances from established actors such as Dash Mihok, Peter Facinelli and Elden Henson.

            The soundtrack of Foxfire is filled with alternative music pertinent to the events of the movie.  The music was very well suited to each scene it was used in.  The movie opens with Wild Strawberries’ I Don’t Want to Think About It, perfectly reflecting how Maddie goes through her daily school life – simply living it without thinking much about what’s going on around her.  Shirley by L7 is a song about a race car driver that is very appropriately used during a car chase scene.  The Candlebox hit You is used in a very poignant scene in which we see each of the girls going through their own brand of pain at the thought of being separated.  Me and My Charms by Kirstin Hersch played at the end of the movie and during the credits.  The song is sad and the lyrics perfectly illustrate Maddie’s feelings at the end of the movie.  I enjoyed the movie’s soundtrack so much that I went out and bought it immediately after watching the movie.  It was the soundtrack that was playing in my car for months.

            The cinematography of the Foxfire was a tad artsy, but I enjoyed it.  The angles, the lighting, everything was used to visually illustrate the emotions in the various scenes of the film.  For instance, at one very critical moment in the film, Legs is portrayed in what appears to be black and white footage.  One could argue that the point she is trying to get across is that clear to her – written in black and white, so to speak.  Or, one could argue that Legs is so focused on the issue that the color has drained out of her world so that nothing can distract her from one point of light in the room.  Or, maybe the black and white footage illustrates the fact that Legs is absorbed with something that happened in her past, so absorbed that she can’t see what is happening in this moment as being anything different than something she has already experienced.  I loved it.  It gives you something to discuss later on after the movie is long over.

            I also loved the fact that older model cars were used throughout the film and some of the clothing styles were older – a throwback reference to the book by Joyce Carol Oates.  The movie inspired me to read this novel, which actually spans over several years in the 1950s instead of a few months in the 1990s.  The movie is rather different from the book and, though I liked the book, I thought the movie was better.

            I guess what made Foxfire such a special movie for me is that I can relate so completely to some of the characters.  We never really know the whole story behind Legs, but we understand enough to know where she’s coming from.  That devil-may-care attitude – the chances she’s willing to take for a rush that makes her feel alive – I’ve been there.  I know what that’s like and I know what brings it about.  To say that I felt close to this character is an understatement.  And yet, I felt close to Maddie and the other characters as well.  These girls were mostly considered misfits in the school for their differences.  I wasn’t exactly popular in high school until the very end and I can understand what these girls went through.  Their bond was born out of the coming together of very different people for a common and worthwhile cause.  I understand that bond completely and know that when that bond occurs, amazing things can come of it.

            The charisma of the five girls made their special bond very believable.  Their acting ability made the story believable.  By the time the movie ends, you are so invested in these characters and their lives that you want to get a glimpse of their future.  You want to know what happens to these girls later in life.  It’s almost as if their special bond has been extended to you.

            I just watched Foxfire for the umpteenth time on DVD.  Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of special features.  I would have loved to hear cast and crew commentary about the movie.  I also would have loved to see some deleted scenes.  I was happy with the fact that they decided to include the Theatrical Trailer that started it all for me.

            Foxfire will always be a favorite for me.  A great storyline, great characters you can relate to, terrific actors, cool music – this film has it all and more.  And to think I fell in love with this movie just by viewing its trailer on another video rental whose name I can’t even remember!  Check out Foxfire today!


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