by Chris Parry
Long time viewers may have seen that, back in the day, I gave this flick a fairly middling review. I liked it plenty, but it was nowhere near the standard of film that everyone was telling me it was. I can't explain the change in my perception, but over the past few years, there certainly has been one. I've sat and watched it late at night on TV, and I've seen new things every time. I've picked up on the nuances of the characters, I've noticed how well it holds up almost 15 years later, and I've not grown any less fond of anyone concerned. Bottom line, Say Anything won me over. I get it. And I'm glad.Certainly John Cusack's portrayal of Lloyd Dobler, all round nice guy and new age romantic, is very funny and even at times 'touching'. He's in love with Diane Court - valedictorian and queen geek, though with a body to die for. Dobler is out of her league, but he's on a mission. He's ready to tackle this 'dare to be great' situation head on, and when he finally calls her up (against the advice of best friend Corey, played by the always strong Lili Taylor), he just about manages to fudge his way to a date, on pure cajones alone.
"It took a while, but it won me over."
Certainly there's enough humor and quotable material in the screenplay to make the whole viewing experience very enjoyable, not to mention memorable, but it's Crowe's characters that really ensure that this is a film we can not only watch over and over, but relate to, and even learn from. Every character is real - not cartoonish or Hollywood, but real. Corey is a songwriting depression-head, hung up on a real 'guy', even though she knows he's scum. The 'guys', who spend their evenings drinking beer outside the Gas'n'Sip, are the same guys I hated in school, who always managed to convince everyone they were cool, even though we all knew they really weren't. Lloyd's late night encounter with them is the stuff of legends:
"How come if you guys know so much about women, you're sitting here at a Gas'n'Sip, at 3am, all alone, drinking beer, with no women anywhere?"
The image of Cusack standing with ghetto blaster held aloft playing easy listening love songs to his chosen one perhaps falls short of the "oooh-aaah" effect it held back when Peter Gabriel's "Your Eyes" was still fresh in the memory, but the scene has been paid homage to so many times, that on pure pop culture value alone, it's worth a look.
The film's real problems lies in its female lead. Ione Sky is a droning non-interesting love interest, while those around her are spark-plugs. She's just not up to the task, and frankly her character is the least likeable of the entire picture (including one who ends up in prison). She's a whiner, a weakling, and when you get right down to it, a cow. ("I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.")
But Cusack makes every scene worth sitting through, even if you wish he'd tell Ione to jam her "too busy for love" routine right up her tight little short-skirt wearing poop-chute. He's just incredible, and you have to think a lot of his dialogue and mannerisms were just Cusack being Cusack. It's just too natural. He's the guy that guys want to be if only they could one day stop being 'guys' for a while. It's great to see him playing opposite his sister Joan once more, this time as his sister, and I really can't fault a damn thing he does in this entire movie.
Cameron Crowe, the writer/director also responsible for Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, can sure write up a storm. There are so many great 'quotable' lines ("Don't be a guy. Be a man. The world is full of guys.") throughout this flick that it's no wonder Crowe stepped up to the next level and is now one of the hottest directors around. He didn't make a movie here, he made a memory.In the era it was made in, Say Anything would have had a lot less going for it than it does presently, because as a look back to the 80's, it's an incredible trip. If you miss the 80's, dig a romance and always waited for the expected kickboxing boom (sport of the 90's, you know) then go find Say Anything and get you some Li'l Johnny Cusack. It's a hell of a nostaliga trip, a hell of a date movie, and a hell of a nice way to spend a rainy Saturday. Props.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1013&reviewer=1
originally posted: 02/02/99 10:56:24