Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Starring John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney,
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Review by Betsy Bozdech
"It's about relationships that are real. Lloyd is a warrior for optimism."
Director Cameron Crowe
"It feels like in another life we would've been this great love."
Ione Skye (on her chemistry with John Cusack)
It's one of the most enduring cinematic images of the '80s: Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) stands, arms extended over his head, holding a boom box blaring Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," defiantly pleading with Diane Court (Ione Skye) to take him back to give him her heart instead of a pen.
It's a heartbreaking scene, one that never would have worked had Cusack and writer/director Cameron Crowe gone with one of their original song choices: Billy Idol's "To Be a Lover" or Fishbone's "Turn the Other Way." Thank goodness for second thoughts (and the mix tape Crowe made for his wedding, where he eventually rediscovered the Gabriel song). And, frankly, thank goodness for Say Anything, which is still one of the best love stories ever captured on film. It would be criminal to lump Crowe's insightful, incisive tale about unlikely romance and unshakeable trust in with other '80s romantic comedies like Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, or even Cusack's own Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer. All of those movies have special places in the heart of anyone who grew up worshipping at the altar of John Hughes, but none of them comes close to matching Say Anything's enduring appeal and quirky honesty.
Why? Say Anything's success can be summed up in two words: Lloyd Dobler. Lloyd is the boyfriend every teenage girl (heck, every woman) thinks she deserves but will never find. He's the guy every fellow who ever marched to a different drummer thinks he can be. He's the reason John Cusack can still open a movie. And he's a kickboxing outsider who lives with his sister (Cusack's real-life sister, Joan) and who, because he's consciously chosen to look on the bright side of life, believes anything is possible even winning the heart of golden girl Diane.
* * *
The movie opens on Lloyd and Diane's high school graduation day. As valedictorian, Diane speaks to the classmates she's never gotten to know, confessing that she's terrified of the future; Lloyd watches her, enraptured. Embracing his philosophy that optimism is a revolutionary act, Lloyd decides to ask her out, and, to his surprise, he succeeds. And not only does Diane accompany him to the big graduation party (one of the movie's funniest set pieces), but, gradually, as he wins her over, she becomes his girlfriend a turn of events that neither of them expected. But their relationship hits a snag when Diane's overprotective father (John Mahoney), who doesn't think Lloyd is good enough for his brilliant daughter, sticks his oar in; his subsequent financial troubles complicate things, too.
Summed up like that, it's a fairly straightforward, not-particularly-remarkable plot, one that could easily have yielded another throwaway teen romance. However, it's Crowe's excellent script, chock full of subtle shadings and strong characters, that takes the movie to the next level. This guy knows from good writing. Like Aaron Sorkin, Crowe writes characters who one-up reality: They're people who say the things we feel but can never find the right words for. Lloyd looks for a "dare-to be-great situation"; his ex-boyfriend-obsessed best friend Corey (one of Lili Taylor's best roles) tells Lloyd that "the world is full of guys be a man." And Crowe's details, from Lloyd's role as "keymaster" at the party to the magpie-like line-up of guys at the Gas 'n' Sip, give the movie a depth, a realness (to quote the man himself) that helps cement its "classic" status.
Diane's close, complex relationship with her father also gives the film more weight than many of its contemporaries. Mahoney is excellent as a man who's deceived even himself into believing that what he's doing is right because he's helping people, particularly Diane. But when she discovers his lies, his carefully constructed world collapses around him; she can forgive the crime, but not the cover-up. It's one of the many reasons she turns to Lloyd, who makes a point of being there for her in every possible way.
No one could have played Lloyd better than Cusack. He gives Lloyd true nobility; in his hands Lloyd becomes a guy who knows that every choice has a consequence and that life is meant to be lived, not postponed until the time is right. He's sweet, chivalrous (oh, that broken glass scene!), aware, smart, funny, and willing to take risks in other words, despite the brush cut and the weird clothes, he's a modern day Prince Charming. It's to Cusack and Crowe's credit that he's a prince beloved by both girls (naturally) and guys, who see in Lloyd a (relatively) attainable role model. That equal-opportunity appeal is what makes Say Anything the ultimate date movie, the perfect story of optimism triumphant.
* * *
As one of the more re-watchable movies in the modern canon, it's about time Say Anything finally made it to DVD. And happily, rather than putting out a bare-bones disc and following up later with a special edition, the folks at Fox have gone for the gold right out of the gate. Boasting a full-length-and-then-some commentary track with Crowe, Skye, and Cusack and more deleted/extended/alternate scenes than Corey's song "Joe" has verses, the Say Anything SE should please even the most rabid of the movie's fans. Here's the rundown:
- Commentary with Cameron Crowe, John Cusack, and Ione Skye: Not only is the trio full of praise for each other, funny "I remembers," and interesting insights, but they have so much to say that they actually talk for a full 21 minutes before the movie starts (it would've been nice to see them chatting, but the still photos that accompany the introduction are okay, too). Crowe does the lion's share of the talking from start to finish he covers the film's genesis (Lloyd was based on one of Crowe's real-life neighbors), his fears and lapses as a first-time director, and so on but Cusack and Skye share some good stories, too. Cusack, it turns out, was very reluctant to do another high school movie, but he was convinced after Crowe showed him the script and did a bit of begging. Both Cusack and Skye muse about their on- and off-screen relationship; Skye, watching the scene in which Lloyd teaches Diane to drive a stick shift, says that if the pair hadn't had significant others already, that was the day they'd have gone home together. A couple of other highlights: Cusack, when Crowe asks the actors if they were in love (in general, not with each other) while making the movie, says "At the risk of sounding very Bravo Channel, I think when you do a part, it opens you up to parts of yourself, that, you know, maybe were dormant." And Crowe, mulling over Lloyd's appeal to women, says he was pleased to find out that "maybe [women] don't need Fabio...somebody that loves them in the right way is more exciting in the long run." All in all, it's an energetic, informative track and well-worth a listen.
- Ten deleted scenes: Virtually all of these rescued clips along with the bits grouped in the "alternate" and "extended" sections make it clear that Crowe had some excellent advice in the editing room. Some of the scenes are interesting on their own (especially the one in which nursing home owner Mr. Court gives an impassioned speech about the rights of the elderly), but several are too long (particularly the "montage of love clips," which really drags) and all were wisely dropped. One highlight: Another of Corey's "Joe" songs.
- Five alternate scenes: Once you see how crucial scenes like Lloyd's rain-soaked phone call, Lloyd's boom box serenade, and Lloyd and Diane's reconciliation could have gone, you'll praise the movie gods that Crowe went with the versions that ended up in the final movie. (One note: The optional commentary for these scenes that's promised on the DVD packaging doesn't seem to have made it to the final disc.)
- 13 extended scenes: Spliced into where they would have ended up in the final film, these sections offer more proof of wise editing choices. Some of the stuff that was cut is incidental, but much of it is slow and cumbersome. The only regrettable trim is some of Lloyd's tape recorder rant to Corey; the extra footage is as funny as what was in the finished film.
- Featurette: Made in '89 when the movie came out, this seven-minute short is a fairly typical peek behind the scenes. Fun for the vintage interviews with Crowe, Skye, Cusack, and Mahoney.
- Trailers (two) and TV spots (eight): All the promo material anyone could want.
- Crowe's personal photo gallery: "Gallery" is kind of a misleading label: This is a set of seven on-set photos, most of which are of Mahoney.
And, of course, there's the film itself. The anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is beautiful only the '80s hair and clothes look dated and the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound does justice to every song on Crowe's carefully chosen soundtrack. (Other audio options include English 2.0, French 2.0, and English and Spanish subtitles.)
- Anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1)
- Single-sided, dual-layered disc (SS-DL)
- Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby 2.0 Surround (English, French)
- English and Spanish subtitles
- Commentary with Cameron Crowe, John Cusack, Ione Skye
- 10 deleted scenes
- 13 extended scenes
- Five alternate scenes
- 1989 featurette
- Two trailers
- Eight TV spots
- Cameron Crowe's personal photo gallery
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