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  Just One of the Guys You're The Man, Ma'am!
Year: 1985
Director: Lisa Gottlieb
Stars: Joyce Hyser, Clayton Rohner, Billy Jayne, Tony Hudson, William Zabka, Leigh McCloskey, Sherilyn Fenn, Deborah Goodrich, Arye Gross, Robert Fieldsteel, Stuart Charno, John Apicella, Kenneth Tygar, Kenneth Basil, Don Blanton, Ramon Chavez, Frank Sprague
Genre: Comedy, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Terry Griffith (Joyce Hyser) has ambitions, as many eighteen-year-olds do, but can it be she has hit the glass ceiling already without even graduating from high school yet? She has entered an essay writing contest whose first prize is a post as a junior reporter at a big newspaper, and was very pleased with her work on the subject of what really goes into the school meals, but when she goes to check out whether she has been chosen for the finals, she is alarmed to see her name is nowhere to be seen on the board and two clearly inferior essays have been selected. She complains about this to her English teacher (Kenneth Tigar) and he suggests women just can't cut it in her chosen field - so how does she prove him wrong?

A decade and a half before William Shakespeare was adapted into a teen movie with 10 Things I Hate About You, Hollywood was drawn to the Bard with his gender-swapping comedy based on Twelfth Night, though only loosely. It was less about paying respect to the drama king and more about finding a gimmick, with as much frank sex talk as a PG-13 rating would allow, which is considerably more than would be allowed all those years later in the twenty-first century, but having discovered a more open attitude to sexual matters in the seventies, that had affected the following decade by making itself plain in the popular comedies of the day. Nowadays such subjects are strictly adults only.

If they are discussed at all, which is why it may be surprising for modern audiences to hear, for instance, Terry's brother fifteen-year-old Buddy (Billy Jayne, then Billy Jacoby) boasting of his prowess in bed, though the film got away with it because he was patently making it all up, and the closest he could get to a woman was his collection of nude posters adorning his bedroom walls. But this was par for the course, though funnily enough such raunch comes across as curiously innocent now, assuming you're not the kind who gets shocked by it all, and there was the appeal of the eighties in a nutshell, a transitional period which forged the idea of blockbusters in decades yet to arrive while still looking back to the more character-based hits of the seventies.

Back at the plot, Terry decides to become a world class snooker player - oh, wait, that was Terry Griffiths, no "s" in Just One of the Guys remember, so she decides to snag that journalism prize to spite her teacher (who suggests she fall back on modelling - cheers) and her rich boyfriend Kevin (Leigh McCloskey) who offers no support. To do so, she dresses up as a boy called Terry (handy that she has an androgynous name, huh?) and pretends to be a new student at school, which she manages by cutting her hair short and dressing in a shiny suit and tie. This leads to the expected dilemmas, such as what does she do during P.E. (shirts versus skins would become a lot more interesting), what does she do when she needs to go to the restroom facilities, and what does she do when a girl gets a crush on her?

Considering that girl was played by Sherilyn Fenn, all sorts of possibilities could have been opened up, but for a story about cross-dressing this was respectful regarding homosexuality, yet approached it rather gingerly. When we got to the business of Terry playing Henry Higgins to get her new best friend Rick (Clayton Rohner) out on the prom date of his dreams in spite of her really wanting to go out with him herself, this had more depth to its situation than its designation as a goofy teen flick might have presented otherwise, and director Lisa Gottlieb was sympathetic to all parties. So the nerds were intimidated by the local bully (William Zabka), but so were Terry and Rick, with a positive standing up for yourself message throughout the plot, be that sticking up for your gender or simply your right to behave as you wanted as long as you were not hurting anyone. Don't worry if this is sounding worthy and issue-led, for there were some decent laughs as well, and if Hyser was a strange character in this (nowhere stranger than when she reveals herself) it was a diverting bit of fun too. Music by Tom Scott.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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