Little Darlings (1980) was one of those movies that my friends and I as pre-adolescents were just desperate to see, probably because we weren't supposed to. Along with other R-rated movies like 1982's Porky's (a throw-away) and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (an absolute classic) released the same year, Little Darlings tempted us with its promise of teen sex and rebellion. I really loved Kristy McNichol at the time; I think I mostly envied her perfectly feathered hair, but I was also attracted to her toughness and independence.
I recently saw the movie again, and was pleasantly surprised with the story. A group of girls randomly thrown together at summer camp front on their sexual experiences until the two main characters - Tatum O'Neal as rich-girl Ferris and McNichol as smokin', tough-talkin', Angel ("don't let the name fool you") from the Projects - admit their own status as virgins. A bet is made as to who will bed a guy first, and all the campers line up behind one or the other (largely along class lines), putting their summer allowances on the line. Talk about peer pressure! So far so cheezy. What actually makes this a girl's coming of age story worth watching is McNichol and her character's struggle with having sex for the first time with Matt Dillon's Randy (randy? really? why didn't they just call him Likes to Shag?) Together, they manage to convey the awkwardness, bravado, confusion, hurt, and occasional genuine tenderness of teen sex. By the end of the movie, all the lies have been revealed, some with relief (surprise! almost everyone's a virgin!), some with chagrin, and others with hurt feelings that foreclose further relationships.
Sure there's more than a tinge of silly 70s soft porn to this film, but if you can get past the surface you'll find a film that deals honestly with first sexual experiences that could not be made with major stars by a major studio today.
Bonus: Matt Dillon and Kristy McNichol as the most delicious androgynous couple ever! Oh the hair!