Say Anything

by John Holbo on October 1, 2012

No, I’m talking about the film, not Daniel’s post (his thread, rather). Following up my bad experience with Sixteen Candles, I rewatched Say Anything and it really holds up. It’s a delight. It’s funny and sweet and sentimental, but in a good way. John Cusack is great. Cameron Crowe is the real deal.

“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.”

Also:

Mike: I don’t know you very well, you know, but I wanted to ask you. How’d you get Diane Court to go out with you?

Lloyd: I called her up.

Mike: But how come it worked? I mean, like, what are you?

Lloyd: I’m Lloyd Dobler.

Mike: This is great. This gives me hope. Thanks.

The one thing that’s not right about the film, but I guess I don’t mind, is that they are obviously all college students, not fresh high school graduates. Lloyd is a college dropout. His friends are all college students. Diane is not going off on a scholarship to college. She’s going off to med school.

Oddly, I had an intensely strong, wrong memory about how the film ended. I could have sworn it ended with an external shot of their plane, ascending into the sky, seen from the ground through a chain link fence, while the whole Replacements song “Within Your Reach” plays. Instead, it turns out the Replacements song is only heard briefly, a bit earlier, while they are packing and leaving Lloyd’s apartment; the chain link fence I borrowed from the scene in the prison yard with her dad; and we only see the interior of the plane. Memory is a strange thing.

I picked Regina Spektor, “80’s Dance Anthem”, for “Sixteen Candles”. More appropriate for “Say Anything” is the great Belle Brigade song, “Sweet Louise”.

{ 44 comments }

1

ralph 10.01.12 at 9:37 am

You are not wrong. The scene at dinner where Lloyd describes how he sees his future in response to the predictable father question is something that has stayed with me my entire life. Whether my life is better or worse for having that phrase hit me exactly in the solar plexus, I have no idea, and have decided not to bother too much about it.

BTW: Think this thread can get over 500 comments?

2

Jacob T. Levy 10.01.12 at 11:01 am

Toldja.

3

Cranky Observer 10.01.12 at 11:21 am

Kickboxing actually did turn out to be the sport of the future, and a person who went into sports management or sports/entertainment production and focused on kickboxing (now mixed martial arts, MMA) would have done very well – probably better than the typical accounting major of that era!

Cranky

4

Russell Arben Fox 10.01.12 at 12:06 pm

Yeah, Say Anything stands tall amongst the efforts of that era. Great, sweet film. Nice call on how the story would work just as well, maybe better, if they were recent college grads rather than recent high school grads (though that might make the personal momentousness of Diane’s decision to have sex with Lloyd seem implausible, whereas for a couple of 18-19 year olds it rings true).

Also, for those Crooked Timber readers who care about such things (which would be, I think, just me): Diane Court = Hermione Granger, Lloyd Dobler = Ron Weasley. Assuming they were Muggles who lived in Seattle in the 1980s, that is. You know its true.

5

LizardBreath 10.01.12 at 1:15 pm

It’s a charming, clever movie. John Cusak is adorable, there are bits that still crack me up twenty years after the last time I saw it, there are all sorts of great things about it as entertainment.

But if we’re talking about things that look disturbing about teen romance movies in retrospect, Dobbler’s kind of a stalker, isn’t he? Someone who’s standing outside your window serenading you after you’ve tried to break up with them is less adorably romantic and more kind of disturbing/scary if you move it outside the romantic comedy context.

6

Barry 10.01.12 at 1:39 pm

“…Dobbler’s kind of a stalker, isn’t he?…”

Think of how many romantic comedies there are in which the male lead is a stalker.
Or perhaps, how many there are in which he’s not.

7

MPAVictoria 10.01.12 at 2:45 pm

“romantic comedy context”
Is this movie really a romantic comedy? It doesn’t feel that way to me.

8

LizardBreath 10.01.12 at 2:51 pm

It’s a romance with funny bits? I’m not sure of exactly where one draws the lines around romantic comedies.

9

MPAVictoria 10.01.12 at 2:58 pm

Yeah, it is a tricky question and I wouldn’t go so far as to say anyone was actually “wrong” but to me it is a romance with funny bits.

10

MPAVictoria 10.01.12 at 3:02 pm

“But if we’re talking about things that look disturbing about teen romance movies in retrospect, Dobbler’s kind of a stalker, isn’t he? Someone who’s standing outside your window serenading you after you’ve tried to break up with them is less adorably romantic and more kind of disturbing/scary if you move it outside the romantic comedy context”

You hear this complaint all the time but I really don’t see an alternative for how a romance is suppose to move the plot along. If one party is not pursuing the other party what else is there to show?

11

LizardBreath 10.01.12 at 3:16 pm

I think that’s overstated — there are other standard romance plots that don’t look stalkery. To stick with John Cusack, try The Sure Thing, which uses essentially the same emotional dynamic as a buddy-cop movie: at the beginning, the tight-ass and the loose cannon can’t stand each other, but circumstances throw them together such that each comes to appreciate each other’s virtues, and by the end it’s either true love or a beautiful friendship depending on whether it’s a romance or a cop movie.

12

David J. Littleboy 10.01.12 at 3:19 pm

Whew. I was worried I had my foot in my mouth saying nice things about John C. in a previous post.

13

Martin James 10.01.12 at 4:36 pm

I found it totally bizarre that her dad was a crook. A doting, male parent who is also a felon has to be the most rare thing in the world.

I liked the movie, but can someone explain that plot element to me.

14

Cahokia 10.01.12 at 6:10 pm

Crowe on Crowe:
“Say Anything… (1989, Writer/Director)

My favorite film. It’s because of Lloyd. And I love the collaboration that happened with John Cusack, where he brought anger and resentment and pain to the character of an optimist, and in that it was something really timeless, and every time I watch it I feel like it’s lightning in a bottle and in that character. I used to think for a while that it would be the one movie I’d do a sequel to, because there was more to be said about Lloyd. Then I went to see High Fidelity, and I thought, “You know what, that movie says a lot of the things that I would probably want to say in a sequel to Say Anything, so congratulations, it exists.”

Say Anything was The first of two very inspiring experiences working with producer James L. Brooks (The Simpsons, Jerry Maguire, Spanglish), who’s written some of the best scripts and characters of the last 30 years. In a field where most people are satisfied with adequacy, Jim never gives up, never quits inspiring you to look to your own life for the personal truths that can make a character great. For Say Anything, we came up with a premise: a movie about a valedictorian and golden girl (Diane Court) who was so smart that she picked a guy nobody thought to be her equal (Lloyd Dobler). And that guy ends up saving her life. The finished movie became a lot more about Lloyd, but without the underrated performance of Ione Skye the movie would never have been as good. Over time, I love Diane, the original star of the movie, more and more.”

bonus:
from Crowe’s website-
http://www.theuncool.com/2011/08/30/say-anything-deleted-scenes/
http://www.theuncool.com/2011/08/02/say-anything-2/

15

Western Dave 10.01.12 at 6:52 pm

So many great moments:

Lloyd Dobler: I got a question. If you guys know so much about women, how come you’re here at like the Gas ‘n’ Sip on a Saturday night completely alone drinking beers with no women anywhere?
Joe: By choice, man.

And most importantly…
D.C.: Lloyd, why do you have to be like this?
Lloyd Dobler: ‘Cause I’m a guy. I have pride.
Corey Flood: You’re not a guy.
Lloyd Dobler: I am.
Corey Flood: No. The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don’t be a guy.

This last one I use a lot with high school age male students. And Russell, Lloyd is Neville.

16

LizardBreath 10.01.12 at 6:55 pm

I still, on occasion, try to calm overexcited people by grabbing them by the shoulders, making intense eyecontact, and saying “You must chill!”

17

bob mcmanus 10.01.12 at 7:26 pm

I have always thought that there might be even more in that movie. Daddy doesn’t smoke pot with his daughter, but is of the age to be the classic boomer (silent?) idealistic (with flaws) hippie parent.

Jim Court: Taking care of people isn’t a growth enterprise, Mr Sims. I hope you write that down in your report, I’d like your bosses to read it.

But Lloyd only wants to take care of Diane.

It is a movie about three people, and two generations.

13:I liked the movie, but can someone explain that plot element to me.

Jim Court is right, and good. Lloyd and Diane will be Blue Valentine in ten years.

But I’m a boomer.

18

bob mcmanus 10.01.12 at 7:43 pm

Another quote I found from Crowe goes something like: “If Jim Court isn’t guilty, the movie is just Pretty in Pink

Don’t quite have a feeling for what generation Crowe identifies with, he is not quite a boomer. I think Say Anything had to be a little ambiguous about the ages of its characters, because it would be hard for recent college graduates to be so socially and politically vacuous. But I think it is also important that Jim Court skimmed just a little, cut just a few ethical corners, in order to fund Diane’s education. Or so he tells himself.

19

Western Dave 10.01.12 at 7:53 pm

@ 18
IMDB doesn’t have the quote, but Lloyd’s speech to Jim at the prison (“isn’t it something to know that a letter like that exists” I think is the line) catches a lot of that generational tension between boomers and xers. We forgive you baby boomers for screwing it all up, now let us go make our mistakes, is the way I interpreted it at the time.

Plus, like many people who think fondly of this movie, I had a doomed long-distance relationship around the time it came out. Unlike Lloyd, I didn’t follow her to London (or was it Utah?).

20

Russell Arben Fox 10.01.12 at 8:26 pm

I’m really appreciating the discussion about the generational elements in the film. I’d noticed that clearly, as I think almost any viewer would, insofar as viewing the story as that of a woman growing up and moving from a relationship of dependence to a relationship of choice, from a father to a lover, is concerned. But I really like how Western Dave (#18) highlights the conversation in between Lloyd and Jim in the prison. Not only is it funny (“How am I doing?! I’m INCARCERATED, Lloyd!!”), but I think I fully agree that you have another generation transference happening there: Lloyd’s not anything impressive, he hasn’t made the sacrifices Jim has, but as one who made no sacrifices, he’s also committed no crimes and incurred no debts to society. He’s giving Diane a clean slate.

Oh, and David: no, Lloyd in not Neville. First, Lloyd and Ron are both athletes. Second, Lloyd and Ron are both psychologically uncomplicated, even simplistic, and not terribly smart young men bouncing back and forth between humorous self-confidence and a frustrated confusion with the world, whereas Neville is a brilliant and heroic kid who has some serious self-loathing he has to free himself from. Finally, Ron, not Neville, gets Hermione, because he can make her laugh, and he becomes a replacement for her absent (and, if Rowling’s planned-but-never-written subplots are to be believed, unreliable) family.

21

MPAVictoria 10.01.12 at 8:32 pm

“I still, on occasion, try to calm overexcited people by grabbing them by the shoulders, making intense eyecontact, and saying “You must chill!””
I love, love that moment.
John Cusack is criminally under appreciated. Gross Pointe Blank, High Fidelity, Better Off Dead. So many excellent male characters.

22

bianca steele 10.01.12 at 8:45 pm

@14 re. James L. Brooks
OTOH I just saw How Do You Know. WTH happened?

23

bianca steele 10.01.12 at 10:51 pm

Just trying to increase the chance of getting to 500. HDYK actually happens to have another potentially incarcerated dad, and a couple of great (from one point of view) male characters. How much can be said about Say Anything?

24

bob mcmanus 10.01.12 at 11:26 pm

Just trying to increase the chance of getting to 500.

I could help, but nobody reads my comments.

Look, I bawled like a baby after that last scene, but c’mon, the dependency and the controlling, was that so healthy? What is going on here?

This is a young woman without a lot of experience with men, and a young man with the aggression (but not the talent) to be a professional fighter. That Dobler guy has some incredible pick-up techniques (“She’s too smart for you.” Huh), and now he has himself a meal-ticket doctor who only thought she was going into research. Lloyd will convince her that Rodeo Drive patrons need love, and plastic surgery also benefits humankind. Anyway. LA will be where the WWF scene is, and she can finance the dojo.

Does Dobler know he’s hustling? Does Diane? Why do I have to believe in these kids, just cause they think they are honest and sincere?

25

Stephen Frug 10.02.12 at 12:40 am

Re: LizardBreath #16: My wife and I tell each other to chill by saying, “I have hidden your keys.”

As for the movie, I loved it in the 80′s, rewatched it long after, but still long ago (a decade ago, maybe?). My memory is that while it basically held up, it sort of broke in half: the first half was a romantic comedy about Lloyd & Diane, with the Diane’s father as a supporting character, with the second half being a movie about Diane and her father’s relationship, with Lloyd as a supporting character. And that the change in focus gives the movie a feeling of being not quite whole. Anyone else feel that way?

26

John Holbo 10.02.12 at 1:35 am

“Dobler’s kind of a stalker, isn’t he?”

I don’t really think so, but it provides us with an occasion to investigate a category: what is a stalker?

It seems to me what keeps Lloyd out of that category is that he is so well-established as nice and utterly lacking in a dark side by the time he blasts Peter Gabriel from his boom box. He manages to be an eager puppy dog while yet earning our basic respect. He’s ineffectual but somehow fundamentally grounded. (This, incidentally, makes him Neville, round about book 3, rather than a Ron Weasley. Lloyd Dobler is going to take Nagini’s head off with a Van Damme-worthy spinning back kick – but not until the end of book 7. He’s got years and years of being ineffectual but respectable ahead of him. One interesting thing about Neville, if you think about it, is that he’s never really a sidekick, like Ron is. No Tae Kwon Do pun intended.)

At any rate, you can only be a stalker if you are not just persistent but somehow threatening.

27

MPAVictoria 10.02.12 at 1:36 am

“Does Dobler know he’s hustling? Does Diane? Why do I have to believe in these kids, just cause they think they are honest and sincere?”
Sheesh that is one grim way of looking at it.

28

John Holbo 10.02.12 at 1:52 am

“Does Dobler know he’s hustling?”

That is the most awesome Bob McManus comment ever.

Lloyd Dobler lied! People died! (I want that bumpersticker.)

I read your comments, Bob.

As usual, Bob does have half a point. Diane is already dependent on Dobler, per the fear of flying scene. The point of that scene is to let Lloyd do his talent, which is being understanding and supportive. But it isn’t that her father is wrong when he says Dobler is temporary and ultimately wrong for her. I don’t think the movie promises us that this is true love forever. Still, Lloyd is – contra Bob – fundamentally unaggressive, despite his kickboxing proclivities. He not manipulative or a user.

29

Western Dave 10.02.12 at 1:53 am

If it weren’t for Harry, Ron would be the most accomplished Gryffindor of his year, Prefect, Chess Champion, Quidditch team etc. etc. Would anybody in their right mind make him keymaster? Neville is totally the keymaster.

30

the next Prescott Niles 10.02.12 at 2:01 am

I haven’t watched it in many, many years, but as I recall the big problem for me was that Crowe doesn’t really come up with anything for Diane to say or do that makes her seem nearly as brilliant and great as we keep being told she is, and Ione Skye doesn’t herself have the kind of spark that could make a viewer buy that there’s something more intriguing and formidable going on behind the relatively garden-variety way she conducts and expresses herself. Winona Ryder could maybe have done more with it, but Skye (again, as I recall) just seemed like a beautiful dud.

31

Matt 10.02.12 at 2:06 am

At any rate, you can only be a stalker if you are not just persistent but somehow threatening.

I guess that applies to Benjamin Braddock in relation to Elaine Robinson, but my understanding is that people at the time thought it was romantic. Was that right? (I have heard that the typical reaction to the movie today is that Benjamin is a completely creepy stalker, and I can see it, but I’m curious if people at the time thought he was creepy, too, beyond the sleeping w/ Elaine’s mother thing.

32

Matt 10.02.12 at 2:12 am

but Skye (again, as I recall) just seemed like a beautiful dud.

My favorite movie w/ Ione Skye was Gas, Food, Lodging, which I have sitting on a shelf nearby in VHS. It’s a bit later than Say Anything, and though I loved it at the time, I’m a bit scared to watch it again. Has anyone watched it recently? (Interestingly, the young adult book that G,F,L is based on, Don’t Look and it won’t Hurt, is generally less optimistic and has a less happy ending, if I recall, though I read it a long time ago, so might be misremembering.

33

John Holbo 10.02.12 at 2:28 am

“Ione Skye doesn’t herself have the kind of spark that could make a viewer buy that there’s something more intriguing and formidable going on behind the relatively garden-variety way she conducts and expresses herself.”

I actually thought this was a positive and charming feature of the film. On the one hand, it’s perfectly plausible that Lloyd is head-over-heels for her (again, no Tae Kwon Do pun intended). But she’s also a real person, not an incandescent movie star. She’s a very pretty girl at your high school (or college, rather). She’s no Audrey Hepburn – but, then again, Lloyd’s not Cary Grant. It would be weird for Lloyd to be chasing after someone as beautiful as Audrey Hepburn. Ione Skye is perfect for him.

“Beautiful dud.”

It would be funny to do a sequel to the film in which it turns out that Lloyd has made a tremendous career for himself – not kickboxing, obviously. But something that makes use of his personality. And Diane is just some assistant professor of biology somewhere. And Lloyd is torn between sticking with her and moving on.

34

Russell Arben Fox 10.02.12 at 3:26 am

John (#26) and David (#29),

With all due respect, you guys aren’t making any sense at all. Look, I love Neville too; he’s a great character. But Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything not only lacks Neville’s self-pitying incompetence (books 1-4), but he also lacks the Nagini-killing angst-burnished-into-heroic leadership awesomeness (book 7) which Neville ends up with, and which Ron, much less Lloyd, really never shows. In other words, Lloyd Dobler’s normal–he’s got some athletic skills, he’s funny, he’s good at being there for people (though he’s hardly perfect at it), all of which is like Ron, and nothing like the but-for-a-coin-might-have-been-the-Chosen-One drama which attends Neville’s life. And really, that goes to the heart of why the comparison is fun to imagine. Lloyd is a pretty decent, pretty average, moderately talented guy, who goes for the smart and pretty girl, one whom everyone assumes is All That, but–as John rightly notes in #33–isn’t actually. And Ron is a pretty decent, pretty average, moderately talented guy (frustrating as it is for us Ron fans, David, Rowling put it right in Dumbledore’s mouth that the only reason he made Ron a prefect was because Harry was too stressed to handle it), who gets the smart, pretty girl, the one who previously had scared off everyone except the international Quidditch stars and pompous jerks like McLaggen. No, I say the comparison holds.

35

Paul 10.02.12 at 11:04 am

Lili Taylor stole the show, in my opinion. I’ve been looking for Corey Flood’s CD of her 65 Joe ballads. “He lies … He lies when he cries.” Great stuff.

36

Cuppa Cabana 10.02.12 at 2:55 pm

Back in the day, I went to a pre-release opening of ‘Say Anything’ at an (UES?) theater in New York. Afterwards, just outside the theater, I commented to my date, “What a load of bollocks”, or words to that effect. Mortified, she nodded toward a dude in a small crowd near us and shush-whispered to me, “Cameron Crowe is right over there!

So I’ll give it another shot. It’s going to have to do more than merely ‘hold up,’ though …

37

bianca steele 10.02.12 at 4:04 pm

@33
Exactly–she’s nice looking.

38

Skip Intro 10.02.12 at 5:17 pm

“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.”

This made a lot of sense to me when I was 16. It still mostly does.

39

Dan Nexon 10.03.12 at 12:30 am

@33. Well, there was a sequel, of sorts. But more to every John C. teen film:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grosse_Pointe_Blank

:-)

40

Western Dave 10.03.12 at 1:10 pm

Anxiously awaiting the re-viewing of Valley Girl. And as for the lack of comments. Well, there’s not much to say about good books (as Tim Burke has pointed out), sometimes bad books teach better. So too, with movies?

41

bob mcmanus 10.03.12 at 4:28 pm

Cameron Crowe is the real deal.

Stirling Newberry takes on David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, and Brett Easton Ellis. Cameron Crowe, precisely of that cohort, b 1957, probably is closest to Franzen.

Franzen, then, does not fall for the trap of pseudo-sophistication, but directly grabs, and did from his first published novel, the painful banality of the decline. His writing is pedestrian, but that is because that’s his audience. A person incapable of better writing, could not maintain the iron grip on words that Franzen does:

“I’m not anything,” Denise said. I’m just me.”

She wanted above all to be a private person, an independent individual. She didn’t want to belong to any group, let alone a group with bad haircuts and strange resentful clothing issues. She didn’t want a label, she didn’t want a lifestyle, and so she ended where she’d started: wanting to strangle Becky Hemerling.

“DFW is talking to other people who are too smart for their own good, Franzen for people who are too stupid for their own good. “

42

Michael Harris 10.05.12 at 12:04 am

Re the “stalker” issue, aren’t we just talking two sides of the coin?

I’d describe many romantic novels, movies, scenarios as having a stalkery vibe, but the fundamental issue/difference is that stalking is fundamentally in the mind of the person being pursued.

(As in, whether something qualifies as stalking is most appropriately assessed by the person being pursued. In the same way as, if I kiss someone I am chatting up at a party, without warning, then it’s basically their call as to whether they think they’ve just been assaulted or not.)

The pursuer typically has something going on in their head like “Oh yes, s/he will be mine, and s/he will love me back.” Sometimes they turn out to be right. Then we think “Isn’t that sweet.” If they’re not right, we look and think “Isn’t that creepy.”

43

Matthew Slaughter 10.05.12 at 3:51 pm

“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.”

This is key, and also why it’s totally mistaken to say that Lloyd is somehow average. He’s got a level of awareness and principle that is absent from 99% of the population, who would take any job that pays money. He refuses alienation. He seeks a higher path than the one laid out for him. And there is no question in his mind: he is unsure of everything, he is humble, and yet in his every thought he takes for granted that he won’t betray himself; betrayal is not an option. That makes him a failure, a loser to the world (which says that if he could, he would), but not to the girl (who knows better).

(Do I have to point out that this is the strict opposite of the father character, the image of success, and yet a man who is willing to compromise even basic honesty for money?)

44

Plume 10.07.12 at 3:42 am

Ione Skye’s father is Donovan. I liked her in “Say Anything” and also in “A Dream for an Insomniac (with Jennifer Anniston and Mackenzie Astin)”. It’s worth watching Whit Stilman’s “Last Days of Disco” after “A Dream” just to see the incredible difference in the two characters Astin plays. Plus. Stilman’s films are good. Don’t like his politics. But his films are good, “Barcelona” probably being the best of the four.

My favorite Crowe film, while I love “Say Anything”, is “Almost Famous”. I think it’s his most personal as well.

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