|Part of the PJ Soles Blogathon on Day of the Woman|
Well, though it was relatively unknown in my own hometown (all the bad kids were into KISS), it turns out the music of the Ramones provides the perfect pogo-ready soundtrack to the angsty arsonist years of high school; it infects the entire rhythm of the film, gradually pulling the narrative away from Riff and Co's high school persecution at the hands of scheming Woronov and into total celebration of rock and roll, and in particular, the album Road to Ruin, which Riff Randell plays while relaxing with a joint in her bedroom. She puffs and rocks so righteously that the Ramones even appear... Joey even serenades her in her shower!
The success of PORKY'S the following year (1980) alas undid the progress of Arkush's holy rock arc, and once again sex and boys were all girls were allowed to think about, back to becoming objects for smelly hormonal rapey teenage creeps to leer. In 1979 they understood that rock and roll is a holy thing - and rock is itself beyond gender, beyond the phony promises of adolescent biology and American advertising. When sex is sublimated into rock, everybody wins!
This is awesome because, without this kind of sublimation, the female adolescent fantasy cannot survive and teenage girls become mired in boytoy mirroring and anti-objectification/prurience dichotomies like LITTLE DARLINGS, FOXES, and FOXFIRE, where every man is abusive, groping, desperate, stalking, or a degenerate charmer out to steal their allowance, knock them up, and split to high-five with their boys (GREASE). But not here, baby. Under the Ramones' benevolent primitivist purity, the animus stays safe between the ponies of childhood and the human boyfriends of maturity. And these Ramones know it, and they're into it. Punk is their unified field, delivering them from harm amidst the chaos they wreak. With perfect love comes freedom from fear. Abuse that trust and you're no longer a rock god, just another sad lecher,
So what a joy to find this kind of thing in a rock film since--in addition to the verboten celebration of blowing up the school--letting underage high school girls around mature punk rocker skeeves would raise so many eyebrows today that the laws of self-fulfilling prophecy would take effect. Parents would protest a movie like this before it even came out, then secretly go see it and feel cheated when there's no gang bang.
All that is great, but what finally unmoors the movie from traditional sex comedy orbit altogether is the wild frenetic anarchy of the all-ages punk rock show centerpiece of the film. Director Alan Arkush had worked as an usher for the Fillmore back in the day so both this and his unjustly unavailable 1983 masterwork GET CRAZY capture that real-life sense of being there, of being caught up in the excitement of a real rock show, from back when rock shows were real.... smokey. Arkush's concerts are vivid alive affairs--they reek of pot, cigarettes, dry ice, and a thousand crushed-together perfumes, like real rock concerts smell. Hey! Hey! I watch these films and get a giddy sensation in my toes I don't get in any other rock movie. And the kids can come too, that's the important thing. The all-ages show is never taken lightly, Arkush respects and reveres the teenage need to rock --he finds the healing redemption in goalless anarchy. I saw many all-ages Ramones shows as a teenager (City Gardens, c. 1983-5) and can assure this one is better than being there. Arkush sustains the excitement most concert films (and concerts) only touch on scattershot, and he builds it up, and then farther up, to levels no other director can reach because they've never been there themselves.
All of which I say to preface the fact that PJ Soles rocks and if you have problems getting through the first bits of this movie, with ancient Og Oggleby as a school official in a boardroom and all the typical teen sexcom clownery, hold fast. Go pour a drink, and then return to let the rock of the Ramones work its magic. You might end up as I did, bouncing around your living room to their protean punk and PJ's awesome bug-eyed purity while your flatmates look at you with quiet annoyance. But hey, Riff's got a chainsaw with their name on it. Blitzkrieg Bop, and BOOM! Let the falling limbs and gym mats be as an absolving blackened blanket.