Project RPO - Say Anything

Our small band of Gunters here in The DreamCage universe are reviewing every film mentioned in Ernest Cline's Ready Player One. This week, Stuart Mulrain gets to Say Anything...

“I gave her my heart, and she gave me a pen!”

It was always a pretty safe bet that I’d love Say Anything when I discovered it in 1997. I’d just seen Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire and was obsessively looking forward to John Cusack’s Grosse Pointe Blank later in the year (which I then had to wait for the video release in 1998 because it wasn’t showing at my local cinema). My anticipation for Grosse Pointe led me to watch as many of Cusack’s films as I could, leading me to discover (amongst other films) Say Anything, which had the winning combo for me of Cusack, Crowe and Frasier’s Dad!

If you’re not familiar with Say Anything, it’s the film that features the iconic scene in which John Cusack stands out by his car, holding a boombox above his head (playing Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes) in an effort to win back the love of Ione Skye. It’s one of those often homaged, dare to be great romantic gestures that plays really well in a movie, but would probably get you arrested in real life. But then that’s what the best romantic movies do, they lie to you in that beautiful way that makes you believe that this is how true love works.

It’s fair to say that Cameron Crowe has always had a sweet and sentimental side in his films, which can turn people off of his films (particularly post Elizabethtown), but they’ve always had an optimism, tenderness and honesty to them that perfectly walks the line between the familiar and the fantasy of being in love, without tipping too far into the cynical or sickly. It’s a formula that the viewer can relate to, take inspiration from and fall in love with and it’s none more evident than in Say Anything.

A former freelance writer for Rolling Stone (a period of his life explored later in Almost Famous), Crowe made his directorial debut with Say Anything in 1989, giving us one of the best teen romance films ever made. The film tells the story of the post graduation relationship between Lloyd Dobler (Cusack) – an average student and all round good guy – and star student Diane Court (Ione Skye) ahead of her leaving to study in London at the end of the Summer.

As strong as Crowe’s script and directing is, a huge part of the appeal and enduring watchability of the film comes from the casting, which is pitch perfect all round. When the poster tagline for your film declares that “To know Lloyd Dobler is to love him”, you can’t help but feel a huge weight of expectation on the characters shoulders. Fortunately, when you cast John Cusack as Lloyd, you know you’re in safe hands. Cusack has always had a knack for playing the average guy you can relate to, whether he be a jilted record shop owner, free-spirited college student or a hitman who has lost his passion for the job.

In Lloyd (arguably up there in his top 3 characters), Cusack gives us a world-weary dreamer who has no career path mapped out beyond his love of Kickboxing (“the sport of the future”), wanting to spend the summer with Diane and his desire to find his “dare to be great situation”. It’s a character tailor made for Cusack and he plays him with a charm and likeability so that we feel his joy and heartbreak throughout the film.

Opposite Cusack we have Ione Skye’s Diane Court, “a brain trapped in the body of a game show hostess”. She’s a character who has achieved everything she wanted to academically in high school, but through her relationship with Lloyd, realises she has missed out on a whole different school life and that her classmates all missed out on really knowing her. Diane is a character that could easily slip into being two dimensional and melodramatic, but Skye is wonderful in the role, perfectly playing Diane’s struggle between her love for Lloyd and her father (Mahoney), anchoring her performance to believability.

The late John Mahoney makes up the film's unconventional love triangle as Diane’s father and best friend. Mahoney is the closest thing the film has to an antagonist, but – and it could be my affection for Marty Crane from Frasier – you can’t help but feel sympathy towards him as he witnesses both his daughter slipping away from him and his business and lifestyle being taken away from him (admittedly that one is through his own actions). Like all great movie antagonists, he feels what he is doing is for the right reasons and Mahoney plays that in a way that makes him both likeable and untrustworthy.

It’s hard not to fall in love with Say Anything (although I’m sure there are those who didn’t), but for me it’s one of the best films about falling in love, being in love and seizing your dare to be great situation.

Follow Stuart on Twitter @TokenNerd
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Images - IMDb

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