Already the subject of a 1996 film adaptation starring Angelina Jolie, Foxfire is based on a novel by the much-revered American novelist Joyce Carol Oates. But if I had been told it was based on a novel by Jacqueline Wilson I would not have questioned it. Jacqueline Wilson, by the way, is the popular British author of fiction for teenage girls, and among her extensive canon is a series known as The Sleepover Club. This writer used to buy them for his daughter, as she enjoyed them. 

However, the five girls of The Sleepover Club did nothing so daring or anarchic as the girls in the Foxfire gang, who come together in 1950s upstate New York to make a stand against male dominance.

Don't expect too much subtlety here. The men are cartoon characters as depicted here, like the `dirty old man' with designs on his niece. He gets his comeuppance when confronted by the Foxfire girls, who beat him up in his shop. The local boys jeer or pick on the girls, or, if not, have their wicked way with them. Parents, when they appear at all, are ineffectual, and unable to control their daughters.

I don’t know if Joyce Carol Oates, in her venerable eminence, would like to know that the screenplay adapted from her novel kept reminding me of an edgier version of The Sleepover Club. The rather dull dialogue, the sometimes too-breathless acting, the way the girls have of remonstrating with each other is in effect The Famous Five and Enid Blyton and Jacqueline Wilson gone real mean.

Cops are strangely absent as the gang members prowl the streets of the town spray-painting  shop windows with inane, meaningless slogans. The girls get in trouble at school, they rob a car and crash it. Ho hum.

After the car crash incident, the ring-leader, "Legs" or Margaret Sadovsky, gets sent to an institute for a spell, which only hardens her more for when she gets out. Nothwithstanding the longeurs of this long drawn-out movie, Margaret is played by the extraordinarily-gifted young actress Raven Adamson. (Jolie played the role in the 1996 version.)

Later on, to make ends meet at their communal house, the girls embark on a series of frame-ups, by luring a few hapless married men in cafés into embarrassing situations. When confronted, these men are only too willing to hand over wallet, watch and wedding ring, on the understanding that the business will not get back to their wives.

On and on it trundles, a much too long teen movie, with girls on the rampage instead of guys. Unconvincing and dull, Foxfire is a film wading in the shallows of a screen-play that needs much sharper editing. Released at the IFI and selected cinemas.

Paddy Kehoe