Monday, August 15, 2016

Last American Virgin, The (1982)

Can a weak final act sink an otherwise terrific film? I pondered this question after my viewing of “The Last American Virgin.” After some thought, I came to the conclusion that no, a weak final act can’t sink a great film. It may hold it back from its full potential, but it won’t tarnish the journey toward the breaking point.

“The Last American Virgin” is a raunchy teen sex comedy in the tradition of “Porky’s.” What sets it apart from that film is its frank honesty. While “Porky’s” may be a funnier film, it’s not as poignant and in touch with the teenage spirit. It’s more a fantasy built from real parts than a pure representation of its subject matter. “The Last American Virgin” is the opposite: an honest look into the lives of teenagers in love and lust with fantastical scenarios sprinkled in throughout.

The film follows the travails of three friends: Gary (Lawrence Monoson), David (Joe Rubbo), and Rick (Steve Antin). The three are at that dangerous crossroads of life, where raging hormones and bad decisions collide. All three long for sex, with Rick the only truly successful one. He’s rugged, good-looking, and a ladies man at heart. David may be overweight, but that never plays into his predicament. He’s rather confident in himself, which wins over the hearts of some, but his anxiety gets the better of him in certain situations. And then there’s Gary, the main protagonist of the film. He’s the prototypical nice guy; the friend who will loan Rick the keys to his grandmother’s house so he can get laid. He too lets his anxiety get in the way, but for a different reason.

Gary wants love. He doesn’t know it until he meets Karen (Diane Franklin), the new girl in school. It’s love at first sight, which only exists in movies and with teenagers. I’m guilty of believing in it and I’m sure you are too. I’m sure you’re also guilty of concocting a plan in which to talk to your newfound crush, one much more complicated than simply saying hello. Gary pops the tires on Karen’s bike and conveniently drives by in his pizza delivery van to give her a lift to school. It’s cheesy, innocent, and completely true of the teenage persuasion.

Wouldn’t you know it, Karen falls for Rick instead. And thus begins Gary’s descent into self-loathing. Opportunities arise for him to lose his virginity, his initial goal in life, but he rejects them because they’re not Karen. He doesn’t quite know this is why, as he still tries valiantly to have sex. Karen’s friend, Rose (Kimmy Robertson), shows interest in him, but he rejects her initially. He only accepts her due to lust, and even then he struggles to go all the way. He almost loses it to a promiscuous older woman he delivers pizza to, but he lets both Rick and Gary get an opportunity. When his time arrives, her squeeze comes home to cock-block him. Subconsciously, he cock-blocked himself as he voluntarily lets his friends go first. Then there’s the prostitute, who he does actually lose his virginity to, but it goes so quick and is incredibly awkward that it’s unfair to truly count it. He does contract crabs, though, which is shoehorned in for some cheap gags, but they all elicit laughter, so it’s all good.

The title actually refers to Karen and not Gary, as Rick’s conquest is to be with whom he views as the last American virgin. Metaphorically, it refers to every teenager going through puberty, most specifically the males. Both genders long for sex; it’s only natural. Women want it to be special and rightfully so. Most men, however, view it as a burden. A burning desire that weighs them down. They hear of their friends and classmates losing their virginities and feel left out. They don’t care how they get it, just that they get it.

Truth be told, most men lie about losing their virginities. While some do in fact lose it in loveless fashion, most still pine for their first time to be special, even if they don’t know it. That’s what makes Gary so endearing and this film so honest. Writer/director Boaz Davidson observes teenage lust and puppy love from an adult perspective. He’s looking back on his own self and coming to realize what directed him. He’s smart enough to not allow Gary to realize why and even allows him to have his heart broken.

Then comes the final act. It goes against the honesty and innocent tone of the film, despite Davidson’s best intentions. I won’t reveal the twist that the film crumbles underneath, but I will state that it’s reminiscent of an after-school special. It’s of a real situation certain teenagers face, but isn’t handled seriously. Peppy hits from the time still croon over the soundtrack and a cheeky montage contains an otherwise heartbreaking scenario. To call it sickening would be wrong, as it’s not meant to be. Davidson is truly approaching it with heart, but it isn’t befitting of the situation. It almost sinks the film. Almost.

The actual final shot of the film, which has also drawn the ire of many, is actually quite good. If it weren’t for the after-school special that preceded it, I’d go so far to call it excellent. It’s depressingly honest and, while a complete one-eighty of the film’s tone, complements the story. It just doesn’t resonate as much as it should because the final act as a whole doesn’t complement the story.

It’d be wrong of me to say “The Last American Virgin” was tanked because of its final act because it most certainly wasn’t. Three-fourths of the film is clever, charming, and very funny! Davidson is able to incorporate the standard sex romp humor in with his ingenuous direction. A scene in which the three friends substitute Sweet’n Low in for cocaine to please potential partners is in line with raunchy comedies, but truthful in how the teenage mind thinks. It’s both funny and genuine, which is what most of the film is built upon.

MVT: Boaz Davidson. His script and direction, outside of the final act, is as intelligent as the film is raunchy. He’s not content with churning out a simple teenage sex romp, but determined to showcase the innocence and reality of it all. He may get in over his head, but his intentions are in the right place.

Make or Break: I can’t quite pinpoint what made the film, as it’s the combination of sequences that reflect the true beauty of the film. If I had to choose, it’d be when Gary first discovers that Karen is with Rick, as it sets in motion the true moral of the story: sex is better when in love and love is what most truly desire.

Final Score: 8.5/10

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