Fox // 1989 // 100 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // November 12th, 2009
She's got everything going for her. He's going for her with everything he's got.
"What I really want to do with my life -- what I want to do for a living -- is I want to be with your daughter. I'm good at it."
Diane Court (Ione Skye, Wayne's World) has just graduated from high school, and she seems to have a very bright future ahead of her. She's a very intelligent student who excelled in every class, and in the fall she's planning to go to a prestigious school in England. During her high school years, she spent so much time studying that she never really had much times for frivolous things like boys and relationships. So it's a surprise to everyone (even Diane herself) when Diane agrees to go out on a date with fellow graduate Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack, Grosse Point Blank). See, Lloyd is a nice guy, but he's generally regarded as something of a loser. After all, he spends his days practicing kickboxing techniques with his young nephew. Somehow, Lloyd and Diane hit it off and begin a semi-steady relationship. Even so, dangers to their relationship are looming on the horizon. Diane's protective father (John Mahoney, Barton Fink) attempts to sway his daughter to dump Lloyd, and even if she doesn't she's going to have to head overseas in a couple of months. Is it possible that this unlikely pair might have a future together?
What happens in Say Anything (technically titled Say Anything...) isn't really anything new or special. The plot structure is that of oh-so-many teen romances. So why is it that the film is regarded as a modern classic? Because what happens is not important; it's how it happens. In Say Anything, Cameron Crowe takes a familiar story and makes it feel fresh and unique. This story feels truthful rather than artificial, because Crowe not only recognizes the way teenage relationships work but also how they feel. It comes as no surprise that the movie is largely autobiographical; this is a movie that feels like it was lived rather than written. Crowe takes the pain and passion of his memories and finds a way to successfully recreate them in this film, leaving us with an immensely moving and relatable cinematic experience.
The film takes place in that brief window of time between high school and college, that short, transitional space between two vastly different eras of life. There is no other time it could have taken place; it's that time in which the social structure of high school and the social structure of the real world has briefly evaporated. And oh, what a depth of feeling Say Anything contains. There is rarely a love that fills one's heart with joy as much as a first love; there is rarely a break-up that fills one's heart with misery as much as the first break-up. The film depicts both (and more, too) with pitch-perfect accuracy. Just look at the relief on Cusack's face when his first date has ended. He's overjoyed, not because it was a great night (it wasn't; the date actually took several unfortunate turns) but because he didn't blow it completely and the relationship will live to see another day.
Cusack and Skye are nothing short of marvelous in their roles, creating two distinct and believable characters that are both outsiders in their own ways. Diane doesn't have time to be part of a popular clique; Lloyd couldn't get into one even if he wanted to. Lloyd is such a loveable protagonist, his occasional childish tendencies overcome by his earnest sincerity and good-heartedness. When he arrives at that famous moment in which he attempts to woo Diane back by holding the boombox above his head and blasting Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes," it doesn't just work because it's an immensely romantic gesture but also because it feels like exactly what Lloyd would do. Skye is equally delightful, particularly during those early scenes in which she demonstrates joy at Lloyd's peculiar and far-from-perfect world. Some girls might be mortified if their boyfriend agreed to take a drunken friend home in the middle of their date; Diane is thrilled by the oddity of the experience.
Good as the two leads are, I actually feel that John Mahoney gives the finest performance in the film. During the first 45 minutes or so, he seems to be a thoroughly likable father, a kind and giving man who looks out for his daughter and supports her in every way. However, as the film progresses (and as Diane's relationship with Lloyd grows deeper), Mahoney reveals less pleasant aspects of his character. The late moments in which his daughter confronts him with some awful truths are truly wrenching. By the time Say Anything concludes, we might not like Mr. Court, but we certainly understand him and feel for him. There's also a solid supporting turn from Lili Taylor (Six Feet Under), plus fun bit roles for Joan Cusack (Friends with Money), Eric Stoltz (Pulp Fiction), Philip Baker Hall (Magnolia), and Jeremy Piven (Entourage).
The film gets a reasonably solid Blu-ray transfer, which is honestly more than I expected. The film didn't look great on DVD, and I figured that it might just get dumped into the hi-def format without much effort put into cleaning it up, but it thankfully appears that the folks at Fox have put some work into this 20th Anniversary release. The image is surprisingly clean and clear, boasting solid detail throughout. The darker scenes benefit from considerable clarity and depth. Flesh tones occasionally seem a tad too reddish, but it's not a significant issue. The audio is excellent, particularly during the moments in which Crowe cranks up one of the many memorable tunes included on the soundtrack. Dialogue is clean and clear, mixing nicely with the sound design.
A combination of new and old supplements are included. Let's begin by checking off the old stuff. The commentary by Crowe, Cusack, and Skye is still here, along with all of the deleted/alternate scenes, the vintage EPK-style featurette, galleries, and a theatrical trailer. Several new pieces have been produced for this disc, beginning with the 22-minute "An Iconic Film Revisited: Say Anything...20 Years Later," which catches up with everyone involved and gets some thoughts from them on the film. Absolutely everyone of note participates, which is cool. You also get a new 9-minute interview with Cameron Crowe (a bit of overlap between this and the featurette, but that's okay), seven minutes of interviews with various comedians talking about how much they love the film, and a trivia track. Cool beans.
The film has certainly aged a great deal, feeling very much like a product of the 1980s. That's not a huge problem, but man, some of the fashion elements included are distractingly horrible. Younger viewers also might find the film a bit less fresh than older viewers, because it's been so thoroughly mimicked over the course of the past twenty years by other (mostly lesser) films.
Cameron Crowe's directorial debut remains an affecting gem, and this Blu-ray release proves itself worthy by turning in a strong transfer and some engaging new supplements. It's definitely worth an upgrade.
Review content copyright © 2009 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Trivia Track
* Alternate/Deleted Scenes
* Photo Galleries