Say Anything…, Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut, does not boast a groundbreaking plot. There’s this adorable guy! He likes this girl who doesn’t even know he exists! He wins her over and they fall in love! None of this really matters, though. Say Anything… isn’t about the guy getting the girl. It’s about that lonely and confusing season between graduating high school and the rest of your existence. It’s about believing that you can be part of something bigger, and better, than just yourself. It’s about surviving life — the only life you have to live, your life — by any means possible. If all that sounds cheesy, then maybe it is. Say Anything… might be about that, too. About recognizing that not everything you do is going to be cool or worthy of pride. Sometimes you just have to give in to those cheesy, or embarrassing, or soul-withering moments.
Anyway, aside from my obviously positive feelings on the matter, Say Anything… is widely considered one of the best ‘high school’ movies ever. It has a “98% Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes (matching other classics like Annie Hall and Roman Holiday). It’s well-written and well-acted and straight-up well-made. It even has an eponymous pop-punk band! I find all of this irrelevant, though. Not because I mistrust these judgments, but because watching Say Anything… is a deeply personal, perhaps best described as aching experience, one that I can only imagine is paradoxically intensified by seeing it, among other souls, on the proverbial silver screen. Any best-of lists that it makes seem irrelevant next to the way it (groan) makes me feel.
If this were a film about a girl pining over a guy, it would be intolerable, not to mention depressing. But as it is, we get a [pathetic] guy mooning over a girl, and yeah, we get an unrealistic view of her, but keep in mind we’re seeing her through Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack in his first starring role)’s rose-colored-glasses-bedecked eyes. This doesn’t fall into the Elizabethtown manic pixie dream girl trap of which Crowe would later be guilty (and guilty by association, I guess, of the birth of think pieces? I mean, judging from all. these. reactions. that never. end). Diane Court (the lovely Ione Skye, but how could you not be with a name like that), though we get a limited view of her, is not just some cute girl from homeroom but instead a young woman, going through the excruciating process popular wisdom acknowledges as ‘growing up,’ with fears and hopes and ambitions. She’s concerned about her academic future and what she’s leaving behind if/when she moves across the pond. She cares more about her dad than some dude waiting outside her window (and let’s be real, I wouldn’t come out for some shitty Peter Gabriel song either). Suffice it to say she’s got more going on than a drive to make the most time-intensive scrapbook of all time.
I recognize that my language is defensive. It’s because I love this movie, and I don’t want you to think that its “Generation X classic” status correlates with an outdated notion of adolescence or even just being. Yeah, it has the end-of-year party scene Can’t Hardly Wait stretched out into a feature-length film. Fumbling sexual experience? Check. Heck, it pioneered the boom box outside the window! But to me, it’s so much more than a teen rom-com. It transcends age groups or labels. Crowe has been making some questionable choices as of late (at least he kind of apologized?), but let’s not forget this is the same guy who wrote the painfully hilarious and all-too-real Fast Times at Ridgemont High. This is the dude responsible for the arguably (by me, at least) perfect Almost Famous. Because yeah, he published his first Rolling Stone cover story at the advanced age of 16. His whitewashed casting is problematic, to say the least. You may find it unforgivable. But he nails the coming-of-age story, burgeoning sexual experiences, terrifying monotony of teenage-ing, and longing to belong of which I find it hard to believe anyone could be innocent. So check out Thursday’s screening. Those feelings might be universal enough to make Say Anything… mean something to you, too.
dir. Cameron Crowe
Part of the ongoing series: Throwback Thursdays
Double feature with Better Off Dead!