A Romance to Crowe About
Watching Cameron Crowe's "Say Anything..." throws up instant comparisons with the John Hughes teen movies of the 80s as they both deal with the issues surrounding teenagers. But where as Hughes plied his movies with comedy, writer and director Cameron Crowe goes for the more subtle route still finding amusement from teenage issues but delivering it in a dry manner, making you smile as you acknowledge the realism of these teen troubles rather than laugh. But at the same time he still manages to infuse the story with the uplifting spirit which John Hughes was a master of.
Having just graduated from High School, kick boxing fan Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack - Eight Men Out) wants nothing more than to date the clever and attractive Diane Court (Ione Skye - The Perfect Catch). And Lloyd gets his wish after a very nervous phone call and all he can think about is spending his summer holiday with Diane before she leaves for a scholarship in England. But the fly in the ointment is Diane's father James (John Mahoney - Dan in Real Life) who only wants the best for his daughter Diane and to him the awkward and under achieving Lloyd is not the best.
"Say Anything..." basically revolves around 3 characters underachieving Lloyd Dobler, the love of his live over achieving Diane Court and her protective single father James. This trio of characters allows the storyline to pick its way through various teen issues as we watch Lloyd's nervous way of asking Diane out, her struggle to fit in with other normal teenagers and the whole parental dynamic as she struggles to do what her father wants for her whilst Lloyd also struggles to relate to her father. It works well because Cameron Crowe makes it fun but keeps it real with several recognizable scenario's such as the awkward dinner scene which Lloyd has with James, the father daughter discussions over love and career and so on.
Where it does sort of go wrong is when it throws in a surprise sub plot surrounding James and it feels too manufactured, too unreal in what is a very real movie. The thing is that whilst it doesn't really fit in when it comes to being believable it's instrumental in telling the story of how the relationships between the trio of characters develops.
What is so good is that whilst "Say Anything..." delivers a sense of realism when it comes to teen issues and shies away from going over the top it still manages to remain amusing in an almost quirky sense. There is a dry satire to it so that there are moments which raise a smile but don't cause huge guffaws of laughter and it works well especially when mixed with the romantic side of the movie which has one of those great iconic romantic scenes which sees Lloyd standing outside Diane's bedroom with a ghetto blaster above his head playing romantic music in the hope of winning her back. That sounds cheesy but it is such a great scene.
As for the acting well John Cusack excels at playing characters which have an element of being highly strung and awkwardly nervous and that is what he delivers with Lloyd Dobler. The scenes where he phones up to ask Diane out or the awkward dinner are so brilliant because Cusack delivers so much believable nervousness that it makes you smile. Ione Skye as Diane is equally as good delivering that level of difference she has from other teenagers thanks to her dedication to study but also the level of loyalty when it comes to her relationship with her father. Talking of which John Mahoney as James manages to deliver the protective father with a sense of subtle manipulation, the allowing of his daughter to do things but constantly reinforcing what is right in his eyes.
Aside from the lead trio John Cusack's real life sister Joan crops up as his on screen sister Constance and although a minor part works well, as do the likes of Lili Taylor, Amy Brooks, Eric Stoltz, Bebe Neuwirth and yes that is Jeremy Piven in a small supporting role.
What this all boils down to is that "Say Anything..." is very much a top movie and although over 20 years old still feels remarkably current. It manages to work it's way through various teenage issues and make you smile through some top performances and the clever, dry writing of Cameron Crowe.