Say Anything (1989) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This 1989 film, the first directed by Cameron Crowe, has just made it to DVD in a fine special edition with good production quality and 28 (!) additional scenes that were changed, shortened, or deleted for the theatrical release. It tops of the package with a full length commentary by the principles you actually want to hear from: Crowe, John Cusack, and Ione Skye.

It is a sweet, simple teen love story, filled with credible situations and characters. John Cusack, as always, is Everyman, the guy that most of us probably were when we were 18 or 19, called Lloyd in this story. He's not especially brilliant or talented, and he doesn't have a clue what will happen to him after high school. He hasn't been accepted into any college, and he isn't even interested in going to the local community college. His future is "undefined", or perhaps "open", if you prefer a positive spin. He's pretty much of an underachiever. Right now, the only thing on his mind is Diane, the class valedictorian, a pretty but aloof girl who has gone through high school without ever becoming part of its community. She is headed to England shortly, having accepted a prestigious fellowship.

Lloyd's friends tell him that he shouldn't even ask her out. She's too smart for him. She's too pretty for him. She's never gone out with anyone. Nobody even knows much about her. But he does ask her out, she hesitantly accepts, and surprisingly, they both have a good time. Unfortunately, life is complex. Diane is leaving for England soon, and her dad can't really see how Lloyd fits in. Neither can Lloyd. Neither can Diane, but she sees that Lloyd is a truly decent human being, and she's smart enough to figure out that when you find one of those it isn't wise to let go lightly.



That's pretty much the entire story. There is a sub-plot about Diane's dad and an IRS investigation, but that's really just a backdrop for the Lloyd-Diane story. I do admire the fact that even the father, who has some unpleasant character traits, is also a real person with powerful positives as well.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • 28 extended, deleted or alternate scenes

  • widescreen anamorphic format, 1.85:1

  • full-length commentary by Cusack, Crowe, and Ione Skye

Crowe scored a big hit with the critics, and a moderate box office success, if for no other reason than the movie is almost completely bullshit-free. Like all of Crowe's characters, they are real people doing thing and saying things that people might actually say and do. That sounds simple, but it is a surprisingly rare quality in films. You know how many movies I watch per year? About 1000. You know how many feature real, normal, people doing real things? Pretty much none. Big budget films usually compress an inordinate amount of action into someone's life, or present a totally contrived gimmicky plot: vampires, gunfights, murders, aliens, detectives, explosions, monsters. Tell me, how many murders have you seen? How many gunfights? How many vampires and aliens? How many private detectives do you know? If you know any, how many of them have ever done anything interesting? It is possible to watch hundreds of movies, even acclaimed ones, without ever seeing a real moment, let alone a real person.

Don't misinterpret me. It is possible to make good movies about kids who see dead people and comic book characters, as we all know. I don't object to those movies at all. I have given rave reviews to highly contrived films like X-Men and The Princess Bride and A Clockwork Orange. I don't object to archetypes, or even to stereotypes. But I bless ol' Cameron Crowe for his ability to make warm, credible, honest, decent movies in a Hollywood environment. Not only does he really know the people he writes about, but he likes them. And, eventually, so do we.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 4/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars .. $21 million domestic gross.


IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B. Most teen romances are syrupy crap or filled with unrealistic cardboard characters. This is neither. It cuts pretty close to the bone.

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