Lloyd Dobler. This name resonates for those who love Say Anything because if you make a list of great cinematic romantic characters, Lloyd Dobler is one of the few truly resonant male characters in the genre. Soulful, but not weak, Dobler is an outsider smart enough to know what he doesn’t want. Cementing the appeal of John Cusack for generations, even with some classic characters in Better off Dead and the series of comedies that followed, Cusack was a light comic actor. Here he takes it to the next level. My review of Say Anything after the jump.
Cusack’s Lloyd is a drifter, the son of a military family who decides that what he really wants in life is to go out with Diane Court (Ione Skye). They sat next to each other at a mall, and he’s in. Diane is graduating at seventeen. She’s never really connected with her peers, and is a daddy’s girl. Her father James (John Mahoney) runs a nursing home, and dotes on his daughter. Lloyd asks Diane out and takes her to the big end-of-school party. She goes, and the two bond by both being outsiders, him by knowing everyone, her by being the one everyone knows. She’s charmed, and he’s smitten. The two begin dating, but she’s heading to London at the end of summer. And after they have sex, and Diane tells her dad, they break up. But James has some demons and he is being investigated by the feds for scamming his patients.
Cameron Crowe has made his rep on writing romantic comedies, but this is the one film that seems to have the right amount of darkness to it. Like Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop around the Corner, there’s desperation, and sadness right under the surface of these two people. Will they make it? It doesn’t matter, they’re kids. Even if Crowe puts an optimistic spin on the end of The Graduate, there’s still that lingering sense of youth in action, and that the film is not presupposing their life together. The film is also filled with great supporting characters, with Lily Taylor killing it as Corey, the musician best friend of Lloyd, and Joan Cusack playing Lloyd’s sister.
There’s a world here, and Cameron creates it completely, with Lloyd’s friends all the girls he hangs with, and how they mother but love him. Lloyd’s the guy who has a harem, but no interest in them. And James Brooks must have been good about keeping Cameron on point, as the cutaways in the film are comic excellence (though there were so many great hands on the film, including DP Lazlo Kovacs and producer Polly Platt). If there’s a false step, it’s James’s legal problems, but it also fits perfectly with Diane replacing that role in her life, as her father must be put aside to have romantic interests. This is still one of my favorite romantic comedies, and it hasn’t aged badly at all. The earnestness works here, and Cameron hits all the right notes. In many ways, this is still his zenith.
Twentieth Century Fox’s Blu-ray updates the previous DVD with some new features, and the film is presented in a gorgeous widescreen (1.85:1) transfer and in DTS-HD 5.1. This never was one of the best looking films, but the transfer is excellent, and the film also comes with a trivia track. The film comes with the old DVD commentary, which comes with an introductory ramble (21 min.) with commentators John Cusack, Ione Skye and Cameron Crowe. The commentary is breezy fun, with everyone enjoying revisiting the film. “An Iconic Film Revisited: Say Anything… 20 Years Later” (22 min.) gets Crowe, Skye, John Mahoney and Cusack talking about the film, while “A Conversation with Cameron Crowe” (10 min.) lets the director wax on about the film some more. “I Love Say Anything…” (8 min.) gets comics (like Thomas Lennon and Weird Al Yankovich) to talk about the movie. All these supplements are new. From the DVD there’s the five alternate scenes (11 min.) with three featuring commentary by Crowe, ten deleted scenes (13 min.), and thirteen extended sequences (25 min.). There’s also a vintage featurette (7 min.) with on set interviews with Skye, Crowe and Cusack, two trailers, eight TV spots, and a still gallery.