Little Darlings (1980)

Little Darlings (1980)

“Don’t worry — it’s not THAT bad. If it was, everyone wouldn’t be doing it.”

15-year-olds Angel (Kristy McNichol) and Ferris (Tatum O’Neal) compete to see who can lose their virginity first at summer camp.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Coming-of-Age
  • Rivalry
  • Summer Camp
  • Teenagers
  • Virginity

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary stipulates that adults will “appreciate the funny, sensitive performance by the versatile McNichol, but not much else” about this infamous coming-of-age film. More than 25 years after its release, however, the “adults” watching this film on video are likely the very same underaged girls who, as Peary notes, “repeatedly sneaked by near-sighted ticket takers and made this R-rated comedy a big commercial success.” Whether or not you have memories of it from years ago, this little-seen film remains an undeniably powerful portrait of teenage rivalry and bonding; it’s refreshing to see a rare female perspective on the age-old trope of teens desperately seeking to gain sexual experience. While Tatum O’Neal inexplicably seems like she’s sleep-walking through her role, McNichol’s soul-searching insecurity over losing her virginity is honest and sensitive, and buoys the entire film.

Redeeming Qualities:

  • Kristy McNichol’s Oscar-worthy performance
  • Cynthia Nixon in a bit role as a flower-child camper

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended for McNichol’s fine performance.


2 thoughts on “Little Darlings (1980)

  1. First viewing. Not a must.

    The main problem with this ‘scandalous’ film is that, for most of its length, it’s not that interesting. Throughout the bulk of the obviously one-note storyline, most scenes seem to last about thirty seconds – as if there’s a real fear of viewers’ attention spans.

    Granted, the cast consists primarily of unformed girls, but there is still scant character delineation.

    ~and even less adult supervision. Or appearances by most of the adults at all. In an early (lengthy) scene in which a group of the girls ‘borrow’ a bus to find condoms at a nearby gas station, there is nobody at all in sight there. Wouldn’t guys be working there? Don’t people need gas?

    And these girls are at camp, remember. But the only person who seems to be doing much of anything by way of instruction is Armand Assante (eventually O’Neal’s ‘target’). All the campers appear to be more or less on their own, all the time. Where’s even the montage of instruction classes?

    Things soon get tiresome.

    However, in the last 20 minutes, the film takes a welcome, smarter turn. And it’s here that McNichol does indeed shine (mainly because she’s finally given something to play). If she’s better than O’Neal it’s because she ultimately does have the better role in the film’s final scenes, which she makes the most of. (I wouldn’t agree that O’Neal is “sleep-walking” here. She’s just over-shadowed.) I can’t particularly recommend the whole film just because McNichol suddenly manages to give it some real integrity near the end. Is she worth it? Well, yes, in a way, but you do have to sit through much lazy mindlessness before the finish – so it’s your call.

    I think I just wanted the film to be better than it is.

    Gay ffs may find it intriguing to see the film in light of the fact that, years later, both McNichol and Nixon would come out as lesbians.

  2. ⭐️⭐️

    Yet another film I’ve not seen since the HBO screenings in early ‘80s. I remember it as being soapy and bland with some nudity to spice the mix that the adolescent me appreciated.

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