This is the film that no one saw in theaters when it first came out in 1982, but everyone loved when they caught it on cable years later. It’s the ultimate cult classic. The film was marketed as a Porky’s-type flick, but what we got was a lot more than we imagined for a low-budget film, starring a bunch of unknowns: a heartfelt, meaningful, and brutally honest look at teen angst and heartbreak.
This is the film that should’ve catapulted Lawrence Monoson into major stardom. He plays the lead, Gary, who is the most vulnerable, likeable, and sweetest male character of the ‘80’s teen genre. His two best friends, Rick (Steve Antin) and David (Joe Rubbo) always want to get laid, but Gary would rather wait to lose his virginity to someone he loves.
He falls in love with the new girl in school, Karen (Diane Franklin), who rejects him for his chiseled, misogynistic best friend, Rick. No matter how hard Gary tries to win Karen over, he cannot get her to budge. He takes this personally as if there’s some awful character flaw he possesses, and tries harder. He is so figuratively and literally blinded by love and her beauty that he cannot see her for what she is: a totally superficial, ungrateful, and manipulative ice princess. He never stops to consider, even once, that Karen is the one with the problem, not him.
The film shows plenty of sex, but not just for the hell of it. It shows the consequences that arose from sexual irresponsibility in the early ‘80s, such as crabs (scenes surrounding this that could’ve been tasteless, but were downright hilarious) and abortion.
When Rick finds out that Karen is pregnant, he no longer wants anything to do with her and abandons her to deal with the problem by herself while he goes on a ski trip with his friends and already, on the way to the slopes, is shacking up with some other girl.
Gary gets up the money for Karen’s abortion, allows her to recover at his grandmother’s house, and waits on her hand and foot. This could’ve been the perfect opportunity for Gary to take advantage of Karen (It’s just the two of them), but he’s not like that. He even pulls her shirt down over her midriff when she’s sleeping (It had been hiked up when she was reading a magazine). Gary professes his love to her, they kiss, all is good, and then...
BAM! It’s the infamous ending that everyone whines about. It’s also the most realistic, shocking, and original ending you’ll ever see in an ‘80’s teen flick. She’s back in the arms of Rick, the guy who cheated on her with a prostitute, a nympho, and the girl on the ski trip. He never really loved her or cared about her and just pretended to in order to take her virginity. Then he tells her to “Get the f$#k out” and “You're embarrassing the s#%t out of me. Split!” when she tells him she’s pregnant.
What’s so disturbing and stomach-churning about this ending is that after how awful he treated her, she still goes back to him. This also brings up the age-old question: “Why do women always fall for the a%#holes?” Karen’s self-esteem and psychological stability are seriously lacking if she’s willing to put up with Rick. This film should not only be shown in every film class, but in every women’s studies class as well.
We’ve been conditioned to expect the happy Hollywood ending at the end of every film and when we don’t get it, we’re outraged. But I personally get outraged by the happy endings that are fake, unrealistic, and suddenly make the mean people nice. The Last American Virgin is uncompromising in its characters. Karen is callous and the film sees to it that she is callous to the bitter end. Besides, did you really want Gary ending up with her? He could do so much better.
Like I said, Lawrence Monoson does a great job in the film. He’s a master at facial expressions (e.g. his slack-jawed gaze when he sees Karen for the very first time and his desperate, teary-eyed look from the burning of the crabs). He’s completely at ease in front of the camera. He can transform a bright smile into a look of horror or a heartfelt look into tears and then crying at the drop of a hat. It’s amazing to watch and extremely impressive for a young person in his very first film.
I’m very surprised that some of the most well-known film critics, like Leonard Maltin and Roger Ebert, didn’t find this film important enough to even review.
What’s refreshing about The Last American Virgin is that Gary and David don’t praise Rick for getting so much action with the women. David looks bored by it and Gary looks overwhelmed and disturbed by his behavior in such scenes.
The film, of course, is not perfect. The acting is bad in a couple of scenes and in some of the others, it magically and inexplicably turns from day to night and vice-versa.
The trailer is kind of odd at the end of the DVD. It contains a lot of scenes that weren’t even in the film. Strange.
Regardless, The Last American Virgin is easily the most underrated, overlooked, and important teen flick of the ‘80s that will stick with you and make you think long after the end credits roll.
For your viewing pleasure, I’ve posted my favorite photos and movie montage from the film above (Just click on the next button or the videos and images tabs at the top of this article). Enjoy!