Directed by: Annette Haywood-Carter
Distributed by: The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Written by Jeff Sparks
Tons of films have been forgotten over the years. One that’s been collecting dust is “Foxfire” starring Angelina Jolie. Released in 1996, the film has been overshadowed by Jolie’s more prolific films of the time such as “Girl, Interrupted” which is similar to this film in many ways. Both are about young women who band together under tough circumstances where Jolie plays an unhinged leader of sorts. In “Foxfire” Hedy Burress plays Maddie, a senior who dreams of the day she can escape high school and live her life as a photographer.
The film opens with her taking nudes in the woods with her boyfriend as the opening credits roll. The scene transitions to her rollerblading through the halls at school, narrating her boring day. In 1st period she sees her science teacher bullying a girl named Rita (Jenny Lewis) who is reluctant to kill a frog for class. Outside, a stranger (Angelina Jolie) escapes the rain by entering the class and sitting next to Maddie. This scene marks the first time we will see the contrast between Buress and Jolie’s characters which is a large component of the film. While Maddie looks on feeling sorry for Rita, the new girl stomps over to her and releases the frog out the window. As the teacher orders her to go to detention the girl climbs out the window. “I don’t even go here!” she says. Later in the day, Maddie sees the girl again in the bathroom where Rita is revealing to her that the science teacher has been sexually harassing her. Two more girls, Violet and Goldie, (Sarah Rosenberg and Jenny Shimizu) second and third her accusation. The new girl encourages them all to stand up for themselves, and so the girls confront the man before the new girl assaults him, leading them all to be expelled. That night Maddie hears noises outside her room. It’s the girl, still wearing her soaking wet leather jacket from earlier as the rain continues to pour on. She reveals she’s a drifter named Legs who needs a place to stay.
The two take a walk the next morning over a big red bridge where Legs climbs to the top with Maddie’s art bag in tow. Legs encourages her to climb with her, but she’s too scared. When Legs drops Maddies bag it lands on a ledge further down. She then watches in fright as Legs risks her life just to get her bag back. This is her first encounter with the danger that she will face over the next couple of weeks. Later they meet up with the other girls at an abandoned house that they turn into a hangout place. Expelled, they wander the city aimlessly as Legs continues to teach them how to stand up for themselves. The group goes through many more tribulations in their time together. Some of them strengthen their bond, and some weaken it.
Legs eventually walks out on the group, deciding it’s time to leave town. Maddie chases her down, finding her hitchhiking on the big red bridge from earlier. When a truck stops, Legs asks her to leave with her. Maddie takes a long hesitation before Legs realizes she’s not going to get in with her. As the truck disappears over the horizon, Maddie watches as her potential future vanishes before her. When the truck is out of sight, she climbs to the top of the bridge and watches the sun come up. When she first met Legs, she couldn’t even look at her up there without feeling scared. The time she spent with Legs taught her how to live for herself, how to stand up for herself, and how to simply be herself. After having this mysterious girl turn her life upside down, Maddie feels she is ready to take on the world when she graduates.
“Foxfire” is a really hard film to rate. While there’s lots to love the film has a few issues. Mainly cheesy acting and writing. The film is also painfully 90s to the point that the trailer lists the bands whose music is featured on the soundtrack. But that aspect works for me, as it makes the viewing experience immersive in a way that makes you feel as if you’ve gone back in time. It may be a little rough around the edges but “Foxfire” has a lot going for it. Besides being an underrated early outing in the career of a star, its plethora of themes that include growing up, womanhood, sexuality, and self-identity make it an underrated coming-of-age film that deserves to be remembered.