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In Review: Foxfire (1996)

Annette Haywood-Carter's Foxfire begins with a little alt rock and a little ass. The 1996 film opens with a wordless scene featuring a young woman, Maddy (Heddy Burress), in the woods photographing her 100% nude boyfriend while a Wild Strawberries hit from that same year, "I Don't Wanna Think About It," aurally shoves us into the apathetic arms of the mid-nineties. The film deftly weaves the (sadly timeless) themes of the excellent Joyce Carol-Oates novel, Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, into a neatly updated adaptation. The book, published in 1972, is set in the middle of the last century, a time that is completely different than our current one in every way...except the ways in which male violence, aggression, and manipulation of women is supported and encouraged by various power structures.

The film follows Maddy as she navigates her final year of high school in some fictional, gritty New York suburb. Over the course of, like, 102 minutes, Maddy joins a girl gang, falls in love with Angelina Jolie (playing a badass feminist drifter named Legs), gets a stick-and-poke tat above her right breast, steals a car, nearly kills a middle aged man (something for the resume), and is accepted to RISD on the strength of a portfolio that consists of Polaroids of random people festooned with hand-painted graphics. This sounds like a lot, but the movie progresses at a surprisingly reasonable clip, and just as events are ratcheting up to an almost unreasonable level of what-the-fuck, it ends just as abruptly as it began.

Foxfire has a rating of 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, which seems both reasonable and completely off-base. Like much of Angelina Jolie's filmography, it's far from a profound work of art, but it really soars on the performances of the 5 young women--namely Jolie and Burress. It's depiction of the various levels of absolute bull that women deal with and the exploration of a possible solution (or at least salve) for said bull--girl gangs!--is truly entertaining and thrums with moments of real heart. While Jolie would go on to feature in a more successful vision of Young Women Struggling™ in Girl, Interrupted just three years later, Foxfire remains a real gem in her on-screen career.