Foxes Starring Jodie Foster, Cherie Currie, Randy Quaid. Directed by Adrian Lyne

When does a cautionary tale turn into a prurient melodrama? Sometimes it isn't easy to draw the line exactly. "Foxes" contains elements of both. Ultimately, its message is positive and even optimistic. But en route there's a lot of wallowing in morbid details.

The story has four heroines, in various stages of disillusionment with school , home, and the adult life they're supposed to be approaching. We travel with them through numerous rites of passage, and we hope they'll come out safely at the other end of their journey through adolescence. In the end, one girl has been destroyed. The others, however, seem well on their way to genuine adulthood, after all.

"Foxes" takes a lurid view of episodes involving alcohol, family battles, and the problems of a teen-age runaway. Some sequences also deal, more or less explicitly, with sexual initiation and the uncertainties of adolescent love. The director, Adrian Lyne, seems to care about his characters, and a sense of compassion filters through even the more hysterical scenes. But the film would be easier to take seriously if it didn't plunge so gleefully into its own turmoil.

The performances are stronger than the movie itself. Jodie Foster shows continued growth as an actress, and her girlfriends are skillfully portrayed.

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