Second Union

Second Union

VINTAGE SUMMER: Just One of the Guys (1985)

“Wait a minute, are those what I think they are?”

Just One of the Guys, 1985 (Joyce Hyser) Columbia Pictures

Terry Griffith is an attractive girl. Director Lisa Gottlieb’s camera lingers on her bikini-clad body in the opening as if to remind us of this fact before she undergoes a slight cosmetic change in which she masquerades as a boy (also named Terry) at another high school. She is doing this because she’s convinced her journalism teacher is a sexist pig who didn’t submit her paper for a publishing contest because of the aforementioned femininity. She stops wearing dresses, crops her locks short, stuffs a sock in her pants, and enrolls in a new school. I didn’t know it was so easy to just change schools and pretend to be somebody you’re not, but this is supposed to be California after all.

The new school is populated with the usual cast of characters: a brainless, bully jock named Greg Tolan (William Zabka), weirdo Reptile (Stuart Charno), a couple of nerds (Arye Gross, Robert Fieldsteel), and the handsome loner Rick Morehouse (Clayton Rohner). Terry, forgetting herself, develops a kind of “boy-crush” on Rick and decides to make him her project. It’s also a little awkward to consider she already has a boyfriend in bland, wealthy Kevin (Leigh McCloskey), but she wants to build Rick’s confidence (in the form of advising him on his fashion and manner with girls) so that he’ll get a date for the Senior Prom. After humiliating Greg, Rick asks Greg’s girlfriend to the dance. This crushes Terry, but as I said, she keeps forgetting who she is.

The journalism subplot is almost forgotten halfway through the movie when Terry re-submits her paper to another teacher. He gives her the same grade and uses nearly the same words her former teacher used, but I noticed his approach to “Terry” is distinctly different than her previous teacher. Talking to what he presumes is a boy, he doesn’t cushion his words to make her feel better. Perhaps this is the mythic yet elusive delineation between attitudes toward women and attitudes toward men? Terry is a capable writer but her subject matter is boring, regardless of her gender. I found that interesting.

Joyce Hyser’s performance as Terry is uneven. I thought she was much stronger playing her male counterpart, but that might’ve been intentional – like a reverse Tootsie. She seemed to exude a masculine confidence when pretending to be a man that was missing with her feminine neuroses. I also thought she was way more attractive with short hair. I don’t know why. Her sex-obsessed brother, Buddy (Billy Jacoby) gets most of the funny Woody Allen-esque one-liners as he chases her around the house trying to make sense of her bizarre ambitions. The parents are nowhere to be seen, conveniently out-of-town on a two-week vacation in the Caribbean.

A young Sherilyn Fenn chases after Terry for different reasons, namely “his” cutesy Ralph Macchio-like looks, and Joyce does make for a cute young man! When the jig is finally up, she confesses the truth to Rick and flashes her rather gorgeous breasts at him. He’s obviously hurt, but damn if she isn’t hot! At the end of this adventure, she has an idea for a new article (titled “I Was a Teenage Boy”) which gets her a job interning at the local newspaper. Just One of the Guys is one of the better movies I’ve seen in this sub-genre. I remember enjoying it as a kid (while not fully understanding the themes) and even today, in 2020, it still holds up. It doesn’t preach and it doesn’t lecture.

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