The Outskirts: Foxfire

August 12th 2021

The Outskirts is a column by programmer Cristina Cacioppo that spotlights a film that merit cult status: movies that fell into obscurity and exist outside the categorical.

When a group of girls, all outsiders in their own way, come together to kick the ass of a teacher who has been targeting and sexually violating students, their unfair suspension solidifies a bond that has them posting up in an abandoned house, helping each other out, and just generally being goofs. There’s Maddie (Hedy Burress), the artistic one, who rollerblades (it’s the 90s) through the school halls with her Polaroid camera; Rita (Jenny Lewis), the shy one who has trouble standing up for herself; Goldie (Jenny Shimizu), the tomboy with a drug problem; Violet (Sarah Rosenberg), the “easy” one; and then Legs (Angelina Jolie), the alluring stranger who ignites them all.

Based on a book by Joyce Carol Oates, Foxfire was the debut feature of Annette Haywood-Carter, a long time script supervisor who sadly only directed a few more projects (mostly for television). It was also written by a woman (Elizabeth White, her only writing credit) as well as edited by one (Louise Innes, who has edited a lot of TV series including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood). Having women in the top roles of a production is still rare, and most certainly was in 1996, and it is refreshing to see how that reflects in the storytelling and movement of Foxfire. It’s opening feels idiosyncratic—but welcome—as we see Maddie photographing her boyfriend Ethan (Peter Facinelli), who wears nothing but combat boots (remember: 90s) out in the woods. Ethan falls into the role girlfriends often do in the endless buddy movies—eventually he fades away from the plot completely.

As someone who was a teenager at the same time Foxfire was released, there is so much I find relatable in this movie. The androgyny of some of the characters, including the lanky Jolie herself, who though she is unmistakably female, her sexual power is so fierce, she clearly has all the girls, even the straight ones, falling for her. But she is mistaken for a boy (I often was too, short-haired and hoodie-hidden as I was), maybe because she moves with such confidence. The girls sit around listening to Mazzy Star while Legs gives them stick-and-poke tattoos, and drive around recklessly, blasting L7. And most highly relatable is the sort of romance that exists between the girls—they are captivated by each other, but most of all by Legs. And we the audience are too, thanks to Jolie’s swagger. She’s not the only one commanding attention—a model and purported lover of both Madonna and Jolie, Shimuzu’s presence is undeniable.

Though the movie treads into heavy-handed, after-school-special territory, it never feels overdone or obvious. The best parts are the moments of levity, like when the girls are speculating on the dick size of men in the supermarket. It’s the kind of movie I wish there were hundreds of—I could watch weird girls just hanging out for hours and hours.

Foxfire is streaming on Paramount+