Earth Girls Are Easy (1988)

Directed by Julien Temple

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In Earth Girls Are Easy, three lustful, hairy aliens swing down to the Fernando Valley to hang out with Geena Davis and apparently not Alicia Silverstone.  How Geena Davis’ friend (Julie Brown) isn’t Alicia Silverstone is beyond me.

This is a musical comedy about aliens and the woman who falls in love with one of those aliens, so you can probably already picture what’s in store.  The movie is very 80’s, complete with bright colors, plenty of neon, a nightclub dance-off, the type of husband character who is clearly not right for the main character, product placement, and tights.  It’s an absurd comedy which feels absurd even before the aliens arrive.

When we meet Valerie (Geena Davis), it’s in the bright, painfully white bedroom she shares with her husband.  It’s like the room of a dollhouse made life size of the sterilization room a surgeon goes through before an operation.  Just the entire world of this movie feels so unrealistic, so heightened, so bizarre and both so appealing and off-putting.

It looks kind of fun, but it’s also like one of those bizarre worlds of Dr. Seuss or a Terry Gilliam movie.  Everything is stimulating, shiny, full of movement and fast-paced.  It’s the personification of the MTV generation, right?

There are no books in this version of the valley, little shrubbery, and characters here likely run on something like Red Bull and Mentos, their minds a little loopy from inhaling cigarette smoke, perfume and hairspray.  It’s the type of world that feels highly unstable and unsustainable but a hell of a lot of fun for one night.  And one night is all we really spend here.

The aliens have names that are too complicated to remember.  Just know that they are Jeff Goldblum, Damon Wayans and Jim Carrey.  Their natural appearance is a politer-looking version of the Grinch.  They are covered in hair from head to toe, all of different colors.  They are smaller than humans, but when they leave their spaceship which crash lands in Valerie’s pool, a mystical beam grows them to human size.  When Valerie’s friend, “Candy Pink” (Julie Brown) gives them a makeover, they finally look like Goldblum, Wayans and Carrey.

The story here is that Valerie is set to marry a hot doctor named Ted (Charles Rocket).  He’s a secret lothario (that just roles off the tongue, huh) whom Valerie catches with another woman.  She decides to dump his ass, and then the aliens arrive, drawn to earth by the vision ov Valerie sunbathing in her backyard.

Valerie quickly takes a liking to these curious aliens who speak a different language (English backwards).  They rummage through her home like cheerful, less malicious raccoons who are able to perfectly mimic any sound they hear.  This means that they quickly become a sounding board for tv advertisements, possibly demonstrating some kind of commentary on the youth of this generation, the way they are the perfect victims of corporate advertising.

The characters become yuppies, in a sense.  Their outfits and hairstyles are carefully chosen for them, and they spend the entire night (most of the story) running around town without a care in the world.  These are aliens whose crash landing means they are stuck on earth, but they feel no urgency to get back home.  They’re actually quite happy to be here.

The aliens run around with Valerie and Candy, going to a night club where they are the object of every woman’s desire.  They dance, make out, and… that’s about it.  Valerie and Jeff Goldblum fall in love, but after they sleep together Valerie has a nightmare about the fact that, you know, she just slept with an alien.

The second half of the story concerns Valerie’s fear that Ted will find out about the aliens and, as a committed doctor, will want to dissect them.  When he comes over, desperate to make up for his philandering, she has to lie and pretend the aliens are a band Valerie has won a weekend with through an MTV contest.

Of course he finds out they’re not human later on.  They each have two heartbeats, and you know what, it doesn’t matter.  The aliens run around wreaking havoc, there are a few more musical numbers including one about how blondes have more fun which was shot after the rest of filming wrapped because they needed to fill time, and then the aliens save their ship and fly away but not before Valerie decides to join them.

It’s all incredibly silly, but that’s the point.  This feels like one of those stories conceived during a sleepless, coke-a-plenty night.  It’s a zany premise with enough comic promise.  It’s also somewhat admirable simply because of how unrelenting the insanity is.  It’s uncompromising in its own way, and nothing is deemed too weird.  Movies like this one are what I love about 80’s movies.  My favorite example might be Teen Wolf.  It’s a story in which a kid realizes he’s a werewolf, but instead of going that conventional route where he tries to hide this information from those around him, the wolf is quickly embraced by the school.  It’s an insane movie because that would never happen.  Sure the wolf thing would never happen either, but these movies double down on the “would never happen.”  Other movies take an outlandish premise and inject it into a world where that absurdity is reacted to by a self-serious community of regular people.  In movies like Teen Wolf and Earth Girls Are Easy, the ‘regular’ characters are just as insane as the movie’s premise.

This entire movie might be incredibly cheesy, but the cheesiness seems to serve a point.  I can’t tell if the movie is silly for the sake of being silly or if it’s some kind of scathing satire.  It seems to me to be smarter than it lets on.

In that scene at the nightclub, there’s a moment when Valerie compliments a friend’s homemade earrings.  They are her parents’ credit cards made jagged along the edge and otherwise untouched, dangling showily from her ears.

It’s a silly moment, but it also feels much more important to the world of the story.  We don’t know where any of these other characters come from, and this is the only origin story, so to speak, of one of what would otherwise be background characters.  Using this information, I think there is an unsaid assumption made by the audience that all of the characters, like this one, are just living large off their parents’ money.

And then boom, that’s the whole world of the story.  I don’t remember seeing anyone clearly over the age of 40, outside of a purposefully old-looking nosy neighbor (complete with a Farside kind of beehive hairdo).  This is a young person’s world but one quite possibly dreamed up by an older generation, one who doesn’t fear so much as roll their eyes at the MTV generation.

So maybe, just maybe, this is a movie born out of a generational gap, the same one that seems to have created the Bob Dylan types of the 60s and the Marilyn Monroe types of the 00’s.  This is an outsider’s perspective of the youth of the 1980’s, and– waiting a minute, this is a story about aliens, so holy shit the aliens are old people.  Or maybe not old people so much as the baby boomers?  Well I guess this would be the tail end of baby boomers and the beginning of whatever came after.  Apparently baby boomers were born between 1946-1964 while millennials were born as early as 1983 (I think), so what does that make people born between 1965 and 1982?

Anyways, this is an outsider’s look at the crazy ways youngsters live.  You can just picture an older person expressing frustration over the way one of their adult children is behaving, and what they would be describing is this money.  The outsiders to this story, though, are the aliens, only they are immediately seduced by all of this while the audience might not be.

I wonder what it was like to watch this movie when it was released.  Did so much of the set design stand out even when it was current or has it only become noteworthy with time?

Up Next: One Wonderful Sunday (1947), The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail (1945), The Sunset Limited (2011)

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