"Nobody knew me before tonight. "

‘Say Anything…’ (Cameron Crowe, 1989)

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I have a really fat head. It’s the curse that’s seen me afflicted with an inability to wear a hat of any kind. I wish I could wear a hat. People don’t wear hats anywhere near as much as they used to. These days the only headgear you see is a baseball cap, usually at a jaunty or backward angle showing no respect at all for the design of the thing. I loathe baseball caps. I once worked in a fast food environment where they insisted I wear a baseball cap if I’m handling food, but on closer examination of the rules I found that I was actually required to just cover my head with a hat. So I wore a sombrero. It did the trick of annoying management and got me out of looking like a total dick in a baseball cap (yes, I’d rather serve dim sum to theme park visitors in a sombrero than wear a baseball cap. Even in that garb I felt less of a dick than I would in a fucking baseball cap).

hatMy love of  eighties films reflects my love of hats. You won’t find a more eclectic range of headwear than in the eighties, and no-one rocked the hat better than the ladies. In the closing scene of ‘Say Anything’, Diane Court (Ione Skye) sports a hat far too big to wear on a plane and I love it. It’s wider than her seat but no-one complains. A quick rundown of other great eighties hats would include Molly Ringwald in ‘Pretty in Pink’ (Howard Deutch, 1986), Winona Ryder in ‘Beetlejuice’ (Tim Burton, 1988), Kim Cattrall in ‘Mannequin’ (Michael Gottlieb, 1987) and of course Carter Wong in ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ (John Carpenter, 1986).

This final scene in Cameron Crowe’s rather sweet love story is unfortunately also a reminder that we’re at the dag end of the eighties, and that a film like this has come about five years too late. It evokes an eighties on a par with the sixties in ‘Withnail and I’ (Bruce Robinson, 1987). A decade that’s come to an end and is struggling in its last year. By 1989 the home video boom was in full blast and whereas in the early eighties even a small, low budget film could be noticed, by the end of the decade dozens of new films were coming out each week just to keep the rental market happy. Endless rip-offs, homages and tributes to better, bigger budget films. Crowe’s film here is a straight-to-video John Hughes tribute. In many ways it’s almost a sequel to the aforementioned ‘Pretty in Pink’ but with a bit of role reversal.

But ‘Say Anything…’ is not a bad film. In fact it’s a great film, and one which gets forgotten about mainly as people think they’ve seen it because the scene where Lloyd Dobler holds up his beatbox in the early hours of the morning to woo Diana has been mimicked, spoofed and cloned so much since. Crowd-Say

There are problems though. The soundtrack is pretty awful and intrusive, though not as much as Crowe’s later films where the soundtrack seems to have been chosen before the script. It’s the original music by Anne Dudley and Richard Gibbs that grates most. It feels like a soundtrack lifted from another film.

Where the film scores its best marks is in the performance of not either of the leads but John Mahoney as Diana’s father, James Court. He’s got a great character to work with on paper, but he clearly brings more to it than that and his chemistry with Ione Skye is spot on. That Mahoney had only been acting in film and television for a few years at this stage in his career (he started acting at 37) is remarkable. He’s confident, assured and genuinely charismatic. I was 13 when I first saw this film and found him utterly likeable. I always hoped that my future father-in-law would be just like him and oddly enough, my father-in-law did actually look a bit like him which I only realised when watching this again recently.

SkyefallFor a 13 year old this is a cautionary tale. Relationships are nowhere near this easy to cultivate. Mind you, I never looked like John Cusack. Lloyd’s ease at wooing Diane is not to be taken lightly. However I learned a lot from Lloyd’s honest, respectful and polite nature around Diane’s father. Good manners are all-important for a first impression. Take note, kids. Manners cost nothing.

I digress. The story couldn’t be more basic. Boy meets girl, in fact boy doesn’t even meet girl on screen. Before the picture even fades in we’re told they’ve already met briefly and now he plans to ask her out. But boy meets girl. Boy is unfocussed without a particularly bright future, while girl is strong, determined, supported and going places. She’s top of her class, has a fellowship for education in the UK and her parents are divorced meaning she has to live with her father. Her father owns a retirement home and is being investigated for tax fraud. That’s it. That’s all you need to know and it’s enough to entertain for ninety minutes.

I recently had a conversation with Mr Frost, my comrade in this blog endeavour, regarding ‘The Swimmer’ (Frank Perry, 1968) where we bemoaned the lack of a good idea in modern film. A film doesn’t have to be explosions, tension, conflict and action. It doesn’t have to be a big CG-fest. A simple, sweet idea is more than enough to carve a suitable story. Audiences are being spoonfed endless crap by modern cinema. I know he plans to write up ‘The Swimmer’ soon so I won’t dwell on this, but with ‘Say Anything…’ we have a simple idea well done. You can’t ask for more than that.

ShagnastyIn my view, a film is successful if, after the credits roll, you wonder what happens next. If you care enough about these characters, and you should care about the characters in any film, then the film-makers have done their job well. Is it possible that Lloyd and Diane stayed together and lived happily in England? Would Lloyd have been able to kickbox in England? Chances are he probably took a job in Woolworths, rose up to store manager and is now unemployed thanks to the collapse of the Woolworths group and is currently on the verge of losing his benefits because of smallprint. Or maybe they did just live happily ever after.

This is a perfectly acceptable entry into any 24hr film session and is suitable for a slot in the first 12hrs. While entertaining and fun it could be a bit too restful for the tail end.

I leave you with this fantastic piece of art by Marco D’Alfonso.

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