Say Anything (1989). Photo: 20th Century Fox

Say Anything (1989)

"I have this theory of convergence, that good things always happen with bad things. I know you have to deal with them at the same time, but I just don't know why they have to happen at the same time. I just wish I could work out some schedule." - Diane Court

The senior year of high school is a confusing mess. On the one hand, you can't wait to get out of high school. On the other hand, you're terrified to open that door that leads into the unknown, the outside world. The real world. Where scary things happen, there's no turning back, and there's no safety net. I can't think of a film that captures that conflicting set of emotions better than Cameron Crowe's directorial debut, Say Anything.

The two leads of Say Anything are kind, sympathetic characters, so they are so easy to care about. Lloyd Dobler, played to perfection here by a young John Cusack, is unsure who he wants to be, but he definitely knows what he doesn't want to be. He doesn't want to be a bad person. And that's a good start. Lloyd avoids hanging out with his buddies since they just sit on the corner drinking beer every Saturday night.

Instead, he hangs out with intelligent girls that give him decent advice. In a classic scene where he gives an excuse that he's just "a guy," his friend Corey advises: "No. The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don't be a guy." Lloyd also wants to date Diane Court, the beautiful class valedictorian no one really knows because everyone is afraid to approach her. Despite the odds, he calls her up and asks her out. Much to everyone's surprise, Diane Court says yes.

Diane (Ione Skye) is afraid of the future. In fact, she says exactly that in her commencement address. Part of this may be because Diane has been avoiding many of the scarier aspects of growing up. Sure she has been studying extra hard, doing the hard work needed to become top of the class. But by doing so, Diane has also been missing out on the extras that come with high school: parties, friends, boyfriends, and an active social life. In Say Anything, Crowe treats these young adults with respect, and it is clear that Court is an adult just waiting to be unleashed on the world.

Lloyd and Diane go on a date at the albeit cliche end of the school year bash, and Lloyd is named the key master (the guy who can't drink and has to hold everyone's keys until the end of the night). He shows that he's a guy everyone likes and trusts, who cares for others. Diane sees Lloyd through the eyes of everyone at the party and realizes that he's special.

Lloyd may not know his long-term plans, but he knows what he doesn't want to do. Diane's divorced father repeatedly questions Lloyd about his career plans at a dinner party. Lloyds tells him: "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that."

Diane wins a fellowship to study in London. However, she soon learns that her dad has been stealing - from the elderly no less. He's being investigated by the IRS, and he goes to prison. She falls in love with Lloyd, but she feels she can't handle all of this right now - her entire world is a converging, spinning mess between the past, the present, and the future. Everything is literally crashing together at once.

Meanwhile, where is Lloyd going? He's not sure. But he knows that he enjoys kickboxing, the Clash, and spending time with Diane. He tells Mr. Court (John Mahoney), "So, my fathers in the army and he wants me to join, but I can't work for that corporation." Lloyd and Diane are both sorting out where they are going, but they know they want to be together and look out for each other. By the end of the movie, one can't help but root for them.

Cameron Crowe's career would really take off with Say Anything, and many hits would follow (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky). Cusack and Skye would follow up Say Anything with some fantastic movies, especially Cusack in Gross Pointe Blank and Skye in Gas, Food & Lodging. The supporting cast (Lili Taylor, John Mahoney, Eric Stoltz, and Jeremy Piven) also would do excellent work in the years ahead.

Say Anything is one of my favorites. It is kind-hearted in its comedy and honest with its characters. Cusack and Skye shine with complex characters ready to graduate yet scared to take the plunge into the unknown. The ending of teen romance movies can be brutal, but Crowe nails this one. Even the music (a Cameron Crowe trademark) holds up well, and the film still seems fresh 30 years after its release. (B+)

Directed by Cameron Crowe
Starring John Cusack, Ione Skye, Lili Taylor, John Mahoney, Eric Stoltz, Philip Baker Hall and Jeremy Piven
Genres: Comedy, Romance

Photo: 20th Century Fox

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