Much like 1982’s Baby Cakes and the same year’s The Young Like it Hot, 1983’s Sweet Young Foxes is lacquered with a sugary glaze that is similar to Director Bob Chinn’s female-centered output from 1976-1978, but it’s touched with a slightly more down-to-earth and knowing attitude regarding its characters, thanks in large part to a thoughtful and intelligent script by his then-wife, Debbie Chinn (credited as Deborah Sullivan). Making a minor shift from screwball office farce to touching, coming-of-age hangout film, Sweet Young Foxes, Bob Chinn’s second Hyapatia Lee star vehicle produced for Caribbean Films, isn’t the fireworks display The Young Like it Hot was, but it’s softly pleasant and drifts in an unbothered neutral like a youthfully wasted summer evening.

In Sweet Young Foxes, Laura (Hyapatia Lee) has just completed her freshman year at Cal State and she’s longing for her boyfriend, Alex (Bud Lee). Ugh! He just HAD to choose to go to Harvard, which has caused the entire width of North America to come between them! Compounding her dour mood, Laura’s mother, Julie (Kay Parker), is constantly cramping her style and is completely up her ass about everything under the sun while being a lightning rod for Laura’s contempt due to the divorce from Laura’s father. How hard are things in this house? When Laura tells Julie she grabbed a hamburger for dinner, Laura shrieks “A hamburger?!? Can’t you do anything right?!?” After a squabble with Julie, Laura goes to a house party with the wild and crazy Maggie (Cara Lott) and the soft and demur Kim (Cindy Carver), her two best buds in the whole world, and there they all experience an evening of romantic encounters that point to a better and more hopeful summer ahead.

With a nonexistent plot that favors small moments and the natural action that comes with a night out with the crew, some of the elements of Sweet Young Foxes are a bit reminiscent of Adrian Lynne’s Foxes (1980) but if filtered through a Sweet Valley High book. While Foxes was a movie that was more or less populated by mainstream actors (save and except Cherie Currie) playing teens living somewhat dangerously through their formative years, dealing with broken homes, hooking up with guys, etc, Sweet Young Foxes is, conversely, a movie populated by adult film actors some of whom found themselves in the business after escaping the kind of dreary, real-life misery experienced by the characters as dramatized in Foxes (and, sometimes, lives much worse than that). So that gives the film a reverse looking-glass point of view from individuals who, metaphorically speaking, really did run away to join the circus as they get to portray late-teen/young adults with dialed-down dramatic issues such as latchkey neglect, divorced parents, and the mildly ruinous party lifestyle of your average 19 year-old.

In 1983, Sweet Young Foxes was one of Chinn’s most female-driven films up to that point, which is really saying something when one considers just how many films he made that were centered around women and focused on the relationships between them. But this being one of his most femme-leaning works stands to reason with both Lee as its headlining star and Debbie Chinn as screenwriter. Like Chinn’s 1979 masterpiece, Tropic of Desire, Sweet Young Foxes takes its relationships between its women characters very seriously, and while Sweet Young Foxes may not be quite as successful or satisfying a movie by comparison, it’s not for lack of the authenticity given to the characters by Debbie Chinn or the situations in which they find themselves.

One such moment is when Laura and Kim go to pick up Maggie and they find her completely and utterly fucked up on an unspecified chemical agent. After sobering her up, Laura lectures Maggie about being responsible with her partying and then she suggests they all take a shower to get ready for the evening. Set up as any number of groan-inducing porn scenarios in which they would all end up in a shower and immediately get into a giggly, soapy tangle, the scene doesn’t play out that way. Sure, the girls stay naked and the detachable shower heads get a workout (this is still an adult film) but, skin parade notwithstanding, the shower sequence is a one-at-a-time affair with a pretty strict focus on cleanliness, and all of it is intercut in MTV-montage form with the gals horsing around as they gussy up, try on clothes, and put on makeup with a very 1983, mid-level rock track spread atop all of it.

Likewise down to earth is the fact that there isn’t a sex scene in this film that isn’t mostly plausible. Maggie experiments with a guy at school named Mark (Ron Jeremy); Laura reminisces about a magical night in front of a roaring fire with Alex; Kim comes out of her shell and falls into a tryst with genuine good guy, Greg (Blair Harris); Laura gets out of the dumps by hooking up with a feather-haired lunkhead named Alan Rivers (Carl Lincoln, credited as Cap Lincoln) who used to ignore her in high school but now spends his weekends moping around parties wearing a gold chain and a pussy tickler mustache; and Laura and her longtime boyfriend, Raymond (Eric Edwards), make love after he helps her come to grips with that fact that it’s about time that she lets go of her grown daughter. The only encounter that seems straight out of the best kind of nightmare one could have is when Maggie gets positively swarmed and overwhelmed by the hospitality of Miranda Stevenson (Pat Manning), an elegant and filthy rich divorcee whose house hosts the climactic party at the end of the film. Since it’s Pat Manning (and she plays it to the nines, per usual) all is forgiven as, much like she did in The Young Like it Hot where she more or less played the same character, Manning steals the film even though she’s barely in it (it’s the Beatrice Straight Experience). Better still, the scene between Manning and Lott serves as a nice juxtaposition to Lott’s rowdy but sexually empty encounter with scotch-plying Ron Jeremy, the second best sex scene in the movie and, probably, one of the sweatiest of 1983 for, by the end of it, Jeremy is so drenched, he looks like he just walked off the set of Robert Aldrich’s The Grissom Gang.

Even if some of the drama in the film never feels terribly dramatic, one of the narrative strengths of Sweet Young Foxes is found in Kay Parker’s character. Here, the film gets to show some insight into the actual battles that occur between mothers and daughters as the latter begins to age out of the nest. One of the film’s best lines, “Who is this grown woman I’m sharing this house with?”, is absolutely evergreen and will get a nod from every female viewer who has had to co-pilot a daughter through her teen years. Sweet Young Foxes is thoughtful enough to take the time to provide the vantage point of the parent having to face letting go. The film also gets to borrow the deepest and best part of Kirdy Stevens’s Taboo as Parker plays another middle-aged mother suddenly grappling with an uncertain future. Parker’s bathroom masturbation scene, coming soon after she’s had a fight with Hyapatia Lee which ends with Parker slapping the absolute shit out of her, is played less for sleazy, voyeuristic thrills and more as an expression borne out of a grab bag of emotions that include desperation, sadness, and horniness, all of which recalls Georgina Spelvin’s solo scene in Tropic of Desire which had a similar emotional foundation.

The performances in Sweet Young Foxes are as fine as they could be for such a truncated shoot with as little prep as the production actually had. As was the usual case, Hyapatia Lee is good and very engaging while Cara Lott is interesting in a twitchy, nervously self-conscious kind of way which works in her character’s favor. Early on in the film, Cindy Carver is tasked with a dialogue-heavy scene where it looks like she’s picking up her lines from cue cards on the floor which makes for a high wire cold-read. Despite it all, Carver still kind of wins me over as her early shyness and awkwardness does finally give way once they all hit the town. Ron Jeremy’s first performance in a Chinn movie is a true backseat role and he’s very good in it, never once turning on the schmaltz machine he would soon begin lugging from one production to the next.

Like The Young Like it Hot, this film is gorgeously shot by Jack Remy. Aside from watching Pat Manning swallow up a whole other actor in Chinn’s troupe of actors, one of the film’s greatest pleasures is the location house in which most of the film takes place. An absolutely incredible NoCal seaside pad in which almost every window reveals a vista to absolutely die for, if my wife and I could crawl into any one of the jaw-dropping homes we’ve visited through the magic of adult films and commander it as our very own, it would probably be this one. As evidenced in the film, I doubt I would ever tire watching all of the light pass through its many windows as if it were slowly being turned like a magnificent prism. For as the film progresses, the viewer gets to drink in the glittering daylight of the bay that’s on display in the opening telephone scene between Lee and Lott which eventually melts into the golden dusk reflected in Parker’s extended bathroom and shower sequence, all of which is served with a sparkling elegance.

Though it lacks the energy and pop of the same year’s The Young Like it Hot, Sweet Young Foxes is still a fine piece of filmmaking that manages to finds truth and insight in unexpected places due to its intelligent and thoughtful script and likable performances. Far from being a “horny teenagers on the prowl” mini-epic or even a darker cautionary tale about the pitfalls of growing up, it stays true to its down-to-earth characters and their private conflicts and it ultimately plays like if the gals from Haddonfield in John Carpenter’s Halloween decided to “say up the flagpole with babysitting,” went out drinking with Ben Tramer and Mike Godfrey, and had a real good time in the process.

(C) Copyright 2023, Patrick Crain

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