Few actresses have had careers as long as Jodie Foster. She started acting at age five and has been going ever since. As a teen actress she appeared in a diverse selection of films. In fact, in the same year she played a teen prostitute in Taxi Driver and appeared in the Disney classic Freaky Friday. In 1980, though, she appeared in one of her last teen roles in Adrian Lyne’s feature film debut, Foxes.
The film centers on four southern California teenage girls: frequent runaway Annie (Cherie Currie), flirtatious Deidre (Kandice Stroh), awkward and virginal Madge (Marilyn Kagan), and the den mother of the group Jeanie (Foster). None of these girls has a particularly pleasant home life. Deidre’s cop father is abusive, Madge’s mom is overprotective, and Jeanie’s mom (Sally Kellerman) is less responsible than her daughter. The girls often camp out at Jeanie’s house after a night of partying with their other friends…played by the likes of Scott Baio and the future Damone, Robert Romanus.
The problem is that Jeanie is beginning to mature a bit faster than her friends. She seems to always be the one keeping the others from really getting themselves into trouble, especially Annie. Things really get out of hand when Madge sets out to lose her virginity and does so with a much older man named Jay (Randy Quaid). He even lets her move in to his place. However, when he goes out of town, she invites the others over for a nice dinner. This quickly deteriorates into a wild party with tons of uninvited guests who completely destroy Jay’s pad. Through it all, Annie continues on a downward spiral and her friends start to wonder if they can stop her destructive behavior before it’s too late.
Foxes actually reminded me a lot of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which would come two years later. It’s essentially a slice of life for a group of early 80’s California teens, but while Fast Times is a comedy with a few heavy moments, Foxes is a drama through and through. There’s hardly a lighthearted moment, in fact it’s downright grim at times. The world these teens inhabit is not exactly inner city, but it’s not the bright sunny suburbs either. These kids are dealing with some heavy stuff, not the least of which is parents who are either abusive or absent. The most mature person in the whole film is Foster’s Jeanie. In many ways the film is about her struggle with the realization that she needs to get out of this bad environment while being unable to shake the sense of responsibility she has towards her friends.
Of course, it is Foster’s performance which is the highlight of the film. We all know that Foster showed a maturity in her early roles that few young actresses have, and that comes through again in this performance. Also very impressive is Cherie Currie, former lead singer of The Runaways. It is no secret the Curie struggled with drug addiction and has written in her memoirs about difficult family situations. One can’t help but wonder how much of Currie’s character is drawn from her own personal struggles. The result ends up being a very honest portrayal of a young lady facing some demons.
Foxes is a stark contrast to the lighter teen fare that would flood the box office as the 80’s moved forward. Yet, I think it would make a fitting companion on a double bill with Fast Times at Ridgemont High. You don’t get Phoebe Cates in a red bikini, but you do get further proof that Jodie Foster was one of the most skilled young actresses in movie history.