[box cover]

Say Anything

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

Starring John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney,
and Lili Taylor

Written and directed by Cameron Crowe

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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:

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.)

— Betsy Bozdech

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