Valentines Film Review: Say Anything… (1989)

Say Anything…, the directorial debut of Cameron Crowe, is the ultimate affirmation for unrequited love. It is the story of a boy just out of high school, Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), who falls in love with a girl, Diane Court (Ione Skye) and through sheer force of will makes her fall in love with him.

The two main characters are polar opposites. Diane Court is a guarded, highly intelligent honor student that despite being beautiful lacks self-confidence. When she wins a fellowship to study in England, her father (John Mahoney), who’s also her best friend, tells her to stand up straight and admit she’s special, but she immediately slumps down a wall and worries about having to fly on a plane to England.  Lloyd Dobler is a smart and charismatic, but aimless, neurotic everyman, the type that Cusack would make his specialty in later films like High Fidelity and Grosse Point Blank. With vague dreams of being a champion kick boxer and no direction (his parents are in the army, but he can’t work for that organization) he settles on making Diane Court his career and cruises by with a positive attitude that is best embodied at a party where a drunken friend asks him how he got ‘the Diane Court’ to go out with him. He pauses before replying: “I’m Lloyd Dobler”.

Crowe, in a bittersweet style reminiscent of the Old Hollywood of Frank Capra, Billy Wilder, James L. Brooks (who produced this) and in more recent years inherited by Judd Apatow,  that would continue throughout his career, packs the film with great moments, both little and iconic. From great perceptive pieces such as Lloyd using a wad of dollar bills to hold a cassette in place so it doesn’t blur or when he points out some broken glass to Diane so she doesn’t step on it, to the often parodied Lloyd holding a stereo over his heading blasting the song In Your Eyes to win back Diane, Crowe is a master of creating meaningful moments. The film is ultimately a microcosm of post high school relationships and life and shares with the rest of Crowe’s work characters that don’t quite know where they’re headed. It could even be considered the second part of a loose trilogy that would begin in high school with Fast Times At Ridgemeont High (which Crowe wrote) and conclude with his next film Singles which deals with a group of people in their early twenties.

The performances in the film are mostly fine. Cusack does equally well in the comedic moments as the dramatic (the “I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen” monologue in the phone booth is a high point), and John Mahoney is excellent as Mr. Court. Consider his reactions in the scene where Diane tells him about her night with Lloyd when he concedes that he knows ‘that look’ or when Dianne reveals she knows his secret. Only Ione Skye as Dianne doesn’t seem to have the great depth required of her, at least compared to Cusack and Mahoney’s fine work.

Only faltering in the third act that takes a 180 degree turn tonally, Say Anything is a great nostalgic journey through first love that marked a solid beginning for Crowe and Cusack who would go on to make equal, if not better contributions to the romantic comedy genre in later films.

Say Anything… was theatrically released in Australia on June 21, 1990.


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