A Lifetime in Film 1989 #14: Say Anything…

“I want to get hurt!”

So declares Lloyd Dobler in the beginning of Cameron Crowe’s accidental masterpiece Say Anything… It’s a line that, like pretty much everything else in the film, is direct, real and relatable. As played by John Cusack, Lloyd is a hard-headed, aimless, but endlessly lovable high school grad looking for meaning in his life. He finds it in class Valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye in a star-making turn) who is not only smart, but beautiful as well. With a scholarship in England looming on the horizon, it appears that her life is fairly set.

Except it’s not. What makes Crowe’s screenplay so ingenious is how normal these characters are, their lives’ complexities revealing themselves naturally as we are taken through the faithful summer when Lloyd finally decides to ask out Diane. The film delves deep into some fairly weighty themes, including divorce, class differences, and greed, but what makes them impactful is that we recognize ourselves in the characters. And that incidentally makes the film endlessly rewatchable. Crowe’s films often share this trait – easy watches that sneak up on you and make you sit up and pay attention.

The best part of the film is probably the dialogue. There are many memorable lines and Cusack, Skye, and John Mahoney as Daine’s well-meaning, but often misguided father more than deliver on the promise of the screenplay. It is rare these days to feel moved or surprised by a line-delivery in a film that isn’t surrounded by a rousing score, epic lighting and special effects, or life or death situations. But this seemingly simple romantic drama is able to get the pulse up at the right moments better than any modern day blockbuster.

Cameron Crowe has had varied success since Say Anything… with most of the highs of his career following right after in the 90s and early 2000s. But no matter what he does filmwise, no one can take this accomplishment away from him. This would be a crowning achievement for most directors, but for Crowe, it was just the beginning. A-

Next time I will be reviewing the Turkish indie Don’t Let Them Shoot The Kite. See you soon!

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