Say Anything... (1988) / Drama-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for some sexual content, drug content and language
Running Time: 100 min.

Cast: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney, Lili Taylor, Joan Cusack, Amy Brooks 
Director: Cameron Crowe
Screenplay: Cameron Crowe

Review published April 19, 2002

Prior to Say Anything, Cameron Crowe's directorial debut, he had written two notable teen comedies in the early Eighties, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Wild Life  Although they aren't necessarily prime examples of his talent, they were still a cut above the typical teenage comedy fare because of excellent characterizations, good humor, and a little bit of depth thrown in.  After five years of relative obscurity Crowe has re-emerged as a screenwriter, and in the interim has definitely matured, and now that he is the director of his own material, he can see his personal vision unfold the way he sees fit with Say Anything.  He not only continues to show his knack for characterizations, but also impresses with fresher comedy, deeper drama, and a great comic sense.  What was once before an interesting screenwriter for teens now comes back in full-force as a major talent with personal vision, and one you feel would stick around for a long time to come.

A large part of Say Anything's success also rests with John Cusack's incredibly funny and sweet performance as Lloyd Dobler, a misfit 19-year-old who makes it his mission to go out with 17-year-old Diane Court (Skye, The Rachel Papers), the high school's valedictorian and beauty, and to his surprise he convinces her to say yes.  Court has an overly protective father, who hasn't always allowed Diane the fun other kids had, assuring her that all of her hard work and missed summer vacations will pay off.  Indeed they do when Diane is offered full scholarship to a prestigious school in England, and Lloyd wants to spend as much time with her before she goes.  However, her father (Mahoney, Moonstruck) sees Lloyd as a waste of her time and focus, and disapproves of how much time she spends with him, and when he is under investigation for tax improprieties, Diane wonders if she should spend her time with dad and not waste time anymore in a relationship that won't be there once she is gone.

Whether you want to see this film for Cusack, Crowe, or just for the romantic comedy elements, rest assured you are seeing all three at the top of their respective game.  Watching for Cusack's character alone would probably be enough to make this a little better than average, taking the persona he has developed in previous films like Better Off Dead and The Sure Thing and putting it into a three-dimensional character makes this perhaps his best performance in the most well written character in his career to date.  Crowe, of course, went on to direct such memorable films just as funny and full of well-developed characters in Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, but to this day, Say Anything still remains my favorite of all his movies. 

Of course, all of this wouldn't necessarily make this a good film without a good story to go with it.  Say Anything features a very well-developed love story mixed with great comedy and serious drama, but also never seems uneven in tone, astonishing for a first-time director.  Ione Skye gives a very memorable performance as Diane, and the portrayal is refreshing because she isn't written as too brainy or smart beyond her years, having led a very sheltered life under the close inspection of her ever-present father.  The two leads work well together, but the best performance of the film goes to John Mahoney as the father, surprisingly understanding and the type of father you never really see in teen films.

Say Anything is recommended for those looking for a great teen comedy primarily, and for fans of John Cusack especially.  This is my pick for best teen romance of the Eighties, and a breath of fresh air from the dumb sex comedies or manipulative schmaltz that usually passes as entertainment in the same genre.  Nice soundtrack, too.

Qwipster's rating:

2002 Vince Leo