Saturday, November 12, 2016
(April 1989, U.S.)
Every once in a while, a movie is so perfectly timed in its relation to your own life, though you sometimes may not realize it until long after it's happened. Released in the spring of 1989, Cameron Crowe's directorial debut SAY ANYTHING is a simple story of a post-high school summer romance that can potentially blossom into something a lot more. I didn't know it at the time, but I was a couple of months away from my own romance with a young woman (not my wife) during the summer of 1989 that, for a time, had the potential to become something a whole lot more (it didn't). Still, it's impossible to deny those moments when life does imitate art, and vice versa.
SAY ANYTHING was surely the film that rescued my opinion of John Cusack as an actor, because in between this film and THE SURE THING (1985), I was unconvinced that his career was going to become anything significant. From the moment the film opens, we know exactly where Lloyd Dobbler's heart is and what he's going to do about it. We know coming in that this is a romantic comedy-drama, and the story wastes no time about it because the dialogue immediately lets us know that Lloyd is going to ask out the girl he's fallen for, Diane Court (played by Ione Skye), the class valedictorian who's high above the educational think ladder as compared to Lloyd's average student status. She's a beautiful girl who is, though not unpopular, someone outside of the temporary social system of traditional high school of the 1980s. When she accepts Lloyd's invitation to go out together to the town's hottest post-graduation party, it's likely for no other reason than she feels she should finally be able to get out from her shell of isolation and join in with the crowd. Though they spend hardly any time together at the wild party, Diane is able to recognize potential in Lloyd's sincerity. By the time they've spent the entire night together talking and driving around the city of Seattle, they're ready for their second date and what will turn into a summer romance before Diane leaves for an awarded fellowship in London.
As a backdrop to the story, Diane's father (played by John Mahoney), who also happens to be her best friend and confident, is dead-set against his daughter's romance with her new boyfriend because he can clearly recognize just how beneath his daughter Lloyd really is. For his future, Lloyd can't see past trying to get into professional kickboxing, which I have to admit sounds pretty lame, even for a guy who doesn't want to sell anything, process anything, or process anything sold...or whatever. Her father is also under investigation by the IRS for allegedly stealing cash from the senior citizens he takes care of in his nursing home. All of this pressure finally builds on Diane to the point where she finally breaks up with Lloyd in his own car, urging him to accept a pen from her so he can write to her while she's in London (again, life imitates art because my own summer romance eventually dumped me for some stupid, bullshit reason sometime later after we started dating and tried to continue it later). But if there's at least one thing Cameron Crowe taught us, is that if you want to win back the heart of the woman you love, the simple act of standing outside her house with a 1980's boombox raised above your head playing Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" will likely do the job...
I know this moment has been parodied to death, but I wonder if it's ever actually worked between two real life people? One thing I know does often happen in real life is that even after you've been dumped by the girl you love, she's likely to come running back to you as soon as she feels she has a reason to need you (bitch!). This is exactly what happens when Diane realizes that her father is guilty of his crimes. Does she need Lloyd or does she just need someone? Like so many of us, Lloyd only wants his girl back and doesn't care too much for her motives (geez, why do we men do that??). And so, after having watched boy meet girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl break up, boy and girl get back together, and finally, boy and girl fly off to London together, we're left wondering if Lloyd Dobbler and Diane Court, two genuine characters we've come to care about, are going to make it together?
Okay, that last question requires some thought and in-depth investigation. The young woman who was my real-life summer 1989 romance actually wrote a college paper for a film class a year later in which she decided to answer the very question of what would become of Lloyd and Diane once that No Smoking sign went out aboard the plane they were flying in and the film ended. I never found out what she thought or what she wrote, but I'm going to answer that question for her (and for my readers) right now. In my humble opinion, Lloyd and Diane don't make it. In fact, I don't even give them one year! I think after a little time settling in London, Diane finally begins to realize just how much of a crutch an underachieving young man like Lloyd is in her life while she's constantly among those of a much higher think tank organization. The two of them break up for the second time and Lloyd is forced to fly back to Seattle on his own (with money she has to give him) to face the emptiness of his life without Diane by his side. He likely gives the world of kickboxing a try but eventually realizes that he's not going to make it in that sport. So what he ends up doing is something very close to all of the examples he gave of what not wanting to do that night at the dining table in front of Diane's father and his guests. Many years later, he and Diane run into each other in New York City, and although they exchange common pleasantries, the tension between them is thicker than anyone can imagine. Their pasts and the ghosts they each carry are heavy and they're left standing there on the sidewalk, wondering what they should do next. Do they say goodbye and move on with their own lives or do they go for that symbolic cup of coffee that likely carries greater potential with it?
That, my friends, is how I continue the story of SAY ANYTHING. What do you think?
Favorite line or dialogue:
Lloyd Dobler (leaving Diane Court a phone message): "Maybe I didn't really know you. Maybe you were just a mirage. Maybe the world is full of food and sex and spectacle and we're all just hurling towards an apocalypse, in which case it's not your fault. I'm been thinking about all these things and...you're probably standing there monitoring. And one more thing...about the letter. Nuke it. Flame it. Destroy it. It hurts me to know it's out there. Later."