Say Anything

I've always been on the fence when it comes to Cameron Crowe. He has a true talent for writing believable characters and great dialogue, and a fantastic ear for music, but many of his films fail to convince me in the end. I think it's his inherent sentimentality that does him in, but this seems a strange accusation for a man who tries so hard to avoid typical Hollywood sentiment.

He creates indelible scenes: Jerry Maguire yelling "Show me the money!", Billy Crudup standing on the roof yelling "I am a Golden God", John Cusack holding his boombox playing "in your eyes" over his head... Even the exercise-machine suicide and the road trip in Elizabethtown are scenes that are memorable even if the film is now. But ultimately, to me, his films are often more a collection of nice moments than a good, coherent, film. I like his films, but I don't love them

Say Anything was the first exception to that rule. This movie is also not coherent, it kind of meanders, but for the first time it didn't bother me. I identified with these characters and their aimlessness. Lloyd's indecision about his future was painfully familiar, his reluctance to "sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career", and more than that, the resolution of his dilemma feels right: he decides that what he want to be is be with Diane. Because he's good at it. As for Diane, she truly is the center of this film. One of the things I really liked here is that her relationship with her father is just as fleshed out and important as the one with Lloyd, and I recognized much of my relationship with my father in it (though luckily, he's not under investigation by the IRS).

Most high school movies date fairly easily, but this one has not lost any relevance in the 18 years since its release, because it doesn't so much focus on what's "hip" at the time (clothing, language, even music) but on something more essential: where do we go from here? Fashions and lingo change, but that question still faces every graduating senior.

Of course, John Cusack's performance is crucial here. He is Lloyd Dobler: a thoroughly decent and even gallant but also fundamentally aimless guy. He's not perfect. But you can imagine just anyone falling for him: his nervous talking, his ridiculous trench coat, and of course his grand romantic gesture.

But what really makes this film better, in my opinion,, is the ambivalence of the ending. You want these two characters to make it together, but at the same time you doubt they will. The film doesn't end in a kiss or a laugh, but in tense expectation, with a plane taking off. the dialogue says it all:

DIANE: Nobody thought we'd do this. Nobody really thinks it's going to work, do they?
LLOYD: No. You just described every great success story.

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