Monday, July 21, 2014

Before I Die #514: Say Anything... (1989)

This film is the 514th of the 1,149 "Films to See Before You Die" list that I'm working my way through.

Director: Cameron Crowe

I know that I probably was supposed to have my credentials as an "80s kid" revoked for this, but I had actually never seen this movie. Chalk it up to being more interested in Arnold Schwarzenegger movies at the time. Say Anything... was one of a few of those staple, "coming of age" movies that so defined U.S. pop film culture at that time and that I flat-out didn't see. I didn't see The Breakfast Club until well into the 90s, and I have still never seen Pretty In Pink (probably never will). Really, though, these movies are rather dated to me, and they smack of what some social commentators and comedians have referred to as "white people problems." As an adult, how much can I really care about some well-to-do suburban kid whining about not getting the attention of their dream girl or guy? Not much, actually.

I don't mean to completely hate on the genre. John Hughes was a funny guy, no doubt, and the dialogue actually helps most of his and "brat pack" copycat films hold up over time. But the cliches become more painful to see with every passing year, so I never really go out of my way to watch them these days.

While I can't say much for Ione Skye's character or
performance, John Cusack certainly brought the effortless
charm, quirkiness, and vulnerability needed to make
Lloyd one of the most well-rounded of the archetypal
80s "coming of age" protagonists. 
All that being said, Say Anything... was a nice little surprise. No, I probably wouldn't watch it again any time soon, but I enjoyed how it avoided so many of the cliches that the Hughes movies from previous years had created. While teen love is still at the heart of the film, the characters are not the typical set. John Cusack does an excellent job playing the enthusiastic, quirky, and charmingly confident Lloyd Dobler. It's a character that threatens to be a cliche of the genre, but somehow avoids it by being well-rounded. He's definitely the high point, character-wise.

The story itself is also a relatively novel take on the familiar theme of the charismatic, semi-odd fellow who sets his sights on his "It Girl." In Say Anything..., though, his "It Girl" is not the drop-dead gorgeous, overdeveloped prom queen, but rather the quiet, overachieving valedictorian, Diane Court. The path of their relationship feels genuine, organic, and special. When you add in the complications of Diane's father, who suggests but never becomes the overbearing, nay-saying, protective father, then the tale becomes even more unique.

I can't say that I loved every character. Actually, Ione Skye as Diane Court didn't do much for me. I find something bordering on flighty about her performance. And flighty is a quality that some find charming, but I find mildly annoying. In similar fashion, I found Lloyd's gal pal Corey (Lili Taylor) a nuisance. She was clearly meant to be a comedic parody of an emotional musician, but I found her mostly an irritant.

So Cameron Crowe put together a solid film that, in retrospect, bridged the gap between the teen movies of the 80s and 90s. It's not hard to see why so many of my fellow Generation X-ers still have an affinity for it. Take it from a guy who wasn't terribly enthusiastic about watching it - it's worth seeing if you haven't.

635 more films to see "before I die."