Monday, July 9, 2007
Say Anything...(1989) dir. Cameron Crowe
Starring: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney
“Say Anything” should be considered one of the all-time great romantic films. Cameron Crowe established himself firmly as a personal yet audience-friendly filmmaker with a unique voice. “Say Anything…” treads in the romantic comedy genre, but never feels contrived. It’s a simple story about first love and the work, persistence and passion it takes to make it work.
John Cusack is Lloyd Dobler, a recent high school grad, who doesn’t quite fit into any clique or stereotypical group. He’s not a nerd, yet he’s articulate, he’s not a jock, yet he kickboxes, he’s not a rocker yet he’s music literate. He’s not a character you can define, yet he’s someone everyone knows. Ione Skye’s character Diane Court is also not so easily defined. She is set up as an unattainable girl, but not the bombshell type, she’s smart, shy, reserved with girl-next-door good looks and has intimidated her classmates by her aloofness with her peers. But this doesn’t mean she’s never wanted to be part of the group. No one’s been brave enough to approach her. But Lloyd Dobler does.
The first act is about Dobler’s quest for the unattainable. After much persistence, he gets a date with Diane. The courtship is slow and cautious, but sparks are flying and soon they’re both blissfully in new love. Diane lives alone with her father James (John Mahoney). Together they have an unbreakable bond, which both Lloyd admires but also fears. Can Lloyd ever live up to the standard Diane's father expects of her? James could have easily been a stereotype but he’s actually written as a father who trusts and understands her daughter and respects her decisions. But that doesn’t mean his desires meet her desires. And so conflict arises over Lloyd. I’m reminded of James Dean’s father in “Rebel Without a Cause” - emasculated men who harbor personal shame and try too hard to love and protect their children, ultimately to the detriment of the family.
Knowing that she’s going to school in England in the fall, Diane sides with her father and breaks up with Lloyd. But the trust in her father is broken when she discovers he’s being indicted with tax fraud involving his nursing home business. Her brain has betrayed her heart, and she now has lost both Lloyd and her father. Will Lloyd ever take back Diane?
The film’s strength is in keeping that answer from being obvious. Cameron Crowe writes his characters and situations so well we can never be sure what the outcome will be. And I won’t spoil it for you. The final frame of the film and the cut to black will leave you with a smile. It’s a great moment and the perfect metaphor for the film.
The most famous moment is the scene with Dobler holding his stereo over his head playing the Peter Gabriel song “In Your Eyes.” It’s rom-com moment, but it wasn’t written with the intention to be a climax, it’s the action we expect from Lloyd Dobler as a character. Maybe Crowe didn’t realize the power of the scene because it doesn’t even payoff until several scenes later. If this film were to be remade today Ione Skye would have ran out of the house and embraced Cusack with a sloppy kiss...probably in the rain.
This is when Cameron Crowe was a young fresh filmmaker with lots of angst to put on the screen. His most recent film – “Elizabethtown” – is a lame attempt to recreate the magic of his early films like “Say Anything…” So before you pick up your next Reece Witherspoon or Kate Hudson film, pick up this one instead. It’s as dependable as its lead character and won’t let you down. Enjoy.
Buy it here: Say Anything
Lloyd Dobler discussing his career: