Movie of the Week: Say Anything… (1989)

Cameron Crowe directs John Cusack, Ione Skye and John Mahoney in this teen romance where a heartbroken boy does indeed serenade his true love with a boombox held aloft over his head at dawn… blasting the Peter Gabriel song they lost their virginities together to.

Lloyd Dobbler’s career path: “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that… 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.

I’m letting you peek behind the curtain a little here but I have always tried to be a Lloyd Dobbler in my romances. Going all in for the right girl, not really caring about career or other relationships beyond them. There were times when my idea of “the right girl” was blinkered, or I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to live up to that self imposed standard… or when life meant we just outgrew each other after all that personal focus… but it has definitely succeeded in the long run. Sure I don’t live in a palace or have much more to my name other than a few good comic runs and too many DVDs but I am truly happy with Natalie… ecstatic, secure and content. And my thinking that the right girl is what you should pour all your energy and attention into has paid off handsomely. I have a partner who does make my life all the better as I hope I try to make hers. By striving to be the best man I can for the best woman, I know I have attained prosperity by my own measuring stick.

And Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut has always informed that thinking. Cusack gives his best, sweetest and most earnest performance as Lloyd. A naturally cool guy, who doesn’t particularly care about popularity. He wears his heart on his sleeve and goes all in for the girl he wants. Crowe conjures up iconic scene after iconic scene. He is a writer director who somehow blends sincerity with a worldly wit. I could easily rattle off a list of a hundred minor and fetishised moments from this mere 100 minute film. All are human, strong, true, amusing. So I’ll just lean into two reasons why I think this is an indisputable Five Star classic.

1) The second half of the story is giving over to Ione Skye’s dream girl brain Diane Court… we know Lloyd by now and have been seduced by him. She is conferred the bulk of the remaining screen time to carry us through the real drama and big decisions. While Lloyd has the freedom to follow his heart, she has harder choices to make about her future and Crowe never belittles them just because they are not obviously crowd pleasing or punchline driven.

2) That exemplary final scene. Boarding a plane to England together, Lloyd is calming Diane down over her fear of flying. He has brought snacks and reading materials. Knowing that she is nervous about the flight he explains that when the Smoking sign dings the pilot has taken the airplane up safely and everything will be alright. We follow their small talk and fears for their future. And then we silently hold on them, waiting for the ding. As it rings and the movie cuts to black and credits roll… we also know everything will be alright. Not just with the flight but with Lloyd and Diane. Say Anything… doesn’t end on a rainswept kiss or a rushed wedding, it ends on a subtle promise that these kids and their nervous love is going to soar. The ding is all we need to know. It is a wrinkle of screenwriting finesse that outshines Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond. Beautiful.


Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here

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