(United States, 1989)
When I first saw previews for Say Anything, I groaned inwardly, thinking that it would be just another teenage romance. With that expectation, I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that the love story of Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court is heads and shoulders above anything else in the genre. Those who have dismissed the picture on the grounds that they're not interested in this kind of movie should give it a chance. Say Anything captures the feeling of being young and in love in a way that far too few movies manage. It focuses on the day-to-day ups-and-downs, not just the "big moments", and it doesn't demand the introduction of a worn-out contrivance to anchor the third act (for example, there is no sudden appearance by an old boyfriend or girlfriend). The screenplay, penned by writer/director Cameron Crowe, shines with wit and intelligence, and the leads, John Cusack and Ione Skye, inhabit their characters with complete believability. And, after seeing this movie, who didn't suddenly regard Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" as one of the most romantic songs of the decade? Say Anything arrived in theaters at the tail end of an era when teen films had saturated the market. Fifteen years later, it is one of the few movies of its sort that is remembered and whose reputation has actually grown.
Plot Summary (Spoilers Possible):
Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) is an average high school senior. As Say Anything begins, he's getting ready for graduation, even though his future is wide open. His father wants him to join the army, but Lloyd doesn't think that's for him. He knows he doesn't want to buy, sell, or process anything, and the only activity he enjoys and is good at is kickboxing. The object of Lloyd's high school affection is Diane Court (Ione Skye), the class valedictorian. Lloyd has yearned for her from afar, but, after graduation, he finally works up the courage to ask her out. Much to his delight, she accepts, and he takes her to an all-night, post-graduation bash. While there, she learns a valuable lesson -- although everyone knows of her, no one actually knows her. She also discovers that she genuinely likes Lloyd, even though he and she have virtually nothing in common. Diane's parents are divorced, and she lives with her father, James (John Mahoney), a businessman who runs a nursing home. He loves his daughter dearly, and enjoys showering her with expensive gifts. His high expectations also place a great deal of pressure on Diane. When she wins a prestigious fellowship to study in England, he's more excited than she is. He is also profoundly distrustful of Lloyd, especially when the young man describes his career aspirations as being "to spend as much time as possible with your daughter." Then, with the arrival of a pair of tax men at the door, James' entire world is turned upside down.
Say Anything is one of the best in a long line of teen romance movies, if not the best. Unlike many of its fellow genre entries, it is not filled with crude sex jokes, nudity, a lobotomized population, and poorly-defined subplots. And, while the broad strokes of the storyline are familiar, the details are what make this movie special -- smart, well-developed characters, believable situations, and a solid emotional investment for us in the film's people and circumstances. There's nothing exploitative or condescending in Say Anything's approach -- it tells it like it is, with subtle humor and carefully-modulated pathos, capturing the nuances of teenage love in a way that few other screen productions can boast. The film doesn't demand anything from its audience except a willingness for each viewer to turn over a couple of hours to these two characters and the special magic they weave while together.
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