Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Say Something

To right a terrible wrong in slating a John Cusack film, steven harris corrects the balance of the universe by reviewing a great one...

It’s ok readers, I’m aware that I had a bit of a meltdown when I wrote about another John Cusack film recently. Safe to say I won’t ever subject myself to 2012 again now that I’ve so publicly berated myself for voluntarily watching it a second time. To balance things out I thought I’d revisit a Cusack film that I knew wouldn’t get all the veins in my temples throbbing in unison until it felt like my head was about to explode.

Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut is a wonderful example of everyday drama transferring to the big screen as compelling narrative. Aside from a some brief, expositional scenes with supporting cast members it is practically a three-hander played out by Cusack, Ione Skye and John Mahoney. Unlike Cusack, Skye never really made a successful leap from youthful promise to Hollywood star but her performance as Diane Court, the highly intelligent High School graduate dating Cusack’s big-hearted slacker Lloyd Dobler, is both layered and sensitive. Diane could have been portrayed as a nerdy ingenue but is instead fully fleshed out and allowed as much common sense as she has been graced with intellect. Her honesty and purity of intention make a refreshing change from earlier, more sullen and rebellious 80s female teen characters.

Likewise, Lloyd is no brutish fool despite his passion for kick-boxing and decidedly low-maintenance ambitions. Lloyd quite simply loves Diane, loves the essence of her, the entirety of her. His is not an idealised love, she actually is worthy of this devotion, but it is a love rendered more complex by Diane’s relationship with her father.John Mahoney may be more widely known for playing Frasier’s sitcom dad but here his range extends beyond punchlines and archetype to give depth and commitment to his performance as Jim, Diane’s father. Early on we learn that Jim is being investigated by the IRS who suspect him of defrauding some of the clients at his old folks’ home. As Diane falls more strongly for Lloyd she becomes racked with guilt that she is there less for her father at a time when he really needs her support.

To make matters worse, Jim does not entirely approve of Lloyd’s debatable life ambitions and Diane has been granted a scholarship to an English university which means she will be leaving the country by the end of the summer. Torn between her loyalty to her father and such new emotions concerning Lloyd she breaks up with her boyfriend.Cue some early evidence of why filmmakers and audiences alike love John Cusack. Lloyd resorts to driving around in the rain, taping messages to his friend Corey (a great tragicomic cameo from Lili Taylor), his facial expressions and deep set eyes conveying so many emotions and half-twists of comprehension as he tries to understand what has happened and how to grow from it.

For those who have not seen the movie I’ll reveal no more. Crowe, as always, finds his best muse in the day to day interactions between reasonably ordinary people and while Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous might have won the Oscar nods Say Anything is, for me, his most perfect and most tender film. And if that’s not convincing enough, it’s got John frigging Cusack in it, dummies. Note to self: now watch High Fidelity, Grosse Point Blank and yes, even ConAir again.

steven harris is adverse to putting his name in capitals because names aren't that important. Also, lower case is sexy. steven writes all sorts of stuff including fiction, poetry, songs, opinion pieces and shopping lists. He does not write on lavatory doors any more. his blog has writing in it and can be located at He lives in Devon with an imaginary cat called Kafka.

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