Director: Cameron Crowe
Cast: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney, Lili Taylor
Screenplay: Cameron Crowe
Tagline: To know Lloyd Dobler is to love him. Diane Court is about to know Lloyd Dobler.
MPAA: Rated PG-13
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby Surround 2.0
Runtime: 100 min.
Release Date: 11/3/2009
• Audio Commentary by Writer/Director Cameron Crowe and Actors John Cusack and Ione Skye
• Trivia Track
• 10 Deleted Scenes
• 13 Extended Scenes
• 5 Alternate Scenes
• Vintage Featurette
• “An Iconic Film Revisited: Say Anything… 20 Years Later” Featurette
• “A Conversation with Cameron Crowe” Featurette
• “I Love Say Anything…” Featurette
• Trailers and TV Spots
• Photo Gallery
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Say Anything [Blu-Ray] (1989)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 18, 2009)
Teen movies consistently seem to split into two camps. There are the nice, girlie ones with handsome boys who court quirky girls, ala 10 Things I Hate About You. Then there are the male-oriented flicks that tend to revolve around sex, sex, and more sex. Pictures like Road Trip tend to fall into that category. A few movies straddle both realms, though they definitely edge closer to one or the other. For example, American Pie was much warmer than one might expect, but it still focused more heavily on the coarse side of the street. (Its sequel departed even more strongly from the romantic mode.)
It’ll probably always be this way, and the situation was identical back in the Eighties. In that era, we found smarmy and scummy flicks like Porky’s and about a million other skin-oriented party comedies for the boys, while John Hughes created a whole genre unto himself with his patented light comedies. Actually, Hughes nicely crossed the male/female divide with flicks like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club, but I still think his films - especially those like Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink - appealed more to the estrogen-dominant viewers.
Into this setting stepped writer Cameron Crowe. Though only 32 in 1989, Crowe’d already had enjoyed a long career. He worked as a journalist for Rolling Stone magazine in the Seventies and then branched into film work by the start of the Eighties. By 1989, he remained best known as the writer of Fast Times At Ridgemont High; he composed both the original book and the screenplay for the hit 1982 flick.
In between, his film work was restricted to a 1984 dud called The Wild Life. I vaguely remember the movie, mainly because it came across as such a derivative piece of work, at least as marketed. It marked the first lead role for Chris Penn, who just happened to be the brother of Fast Times’ Sean. The advertising people tried to capitalize on this fact, but it didn’t work; the movie stiffed.
Apparently Crowe wasn’t too happy with the result either. He felt it was too much of a party flick without the depth and realism he wanted. Of course, Fast Times became a hit due to its comedy as well, but it actually pushed the envelope for the period as it showed greater believability within its characters.
So Crowe set out to make a movie that broadened the horizons of the Eighties teen comedy. Eventually, he came up with 1989’s Say Anything, a picture that has little to do with the wild party flicks of the era. However, I can’t claim that it’s a total departure from the John Hughes mold, as it actually would fit well into that model.
Say Anything concentrates on the lives of two teens who just graduated from high school in the Seattle area. On the surface, they couldn’t be more different. On one hand, we have lovely Diane Court (Ione Skye), the class valedictorian. She barely knows her peers; an overachiever, she spent much of her time in classes at a local university. Everyone knows of the talented Miss Court, but other than her supportive and doting father (John Mahoney), virtually no one is aware of anything else about her.
And then there’s Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), the veritable definition of mediocrity. Actually, that’s not fair, as it quickly becomes clear that Lloyd is charming and very likable. But ambitious the young man is not. His Dad’s in the military, which means his parents are in Germany and he lives with his bitter single-mother sister Constance (the actor’s real-life sister Joan in an uncredited turn) and her son. Lloyd has no idea what he’ll do with his life, though as we learn during one hilarious speech, he knows what he doesn’t want to do.
Lloyd loves kickboxing - “the sport of the future” - and he’s fixated on Diane. He’s had one pretend date with her; they sat near each other at a mall eatery. Now he wants to take it to the next level, so he invites her to a post-graduation party. Although she has almost no idea who he is, Diane agrees nonetheless and eventually has a good time.
And a nascent romance begins. Diane turns out to be as wonderful as Lloyd fantasized, and in him, she discovers someone who loves her for herself, not for her big brain or accomplishments. Unfortunately, a snag exists on the horizon. Diane won a prestigious fellowship that will send her to England at summer’s end. Her affection for Lloyd starts to cloud her desire to do this, so her Dad pressures her to dump the less-than-ambitious dude. Mr. Court also has some problems with the IRS that make things even more difficult for Diane. Will love eventually carry the day?
As I mentioned earlier, I think Say Anything… fits the John Hughes mold neatly. We find main characters who feel vaguely like misfits but are still attractive and appealing to a general audience combined with various forms of melodrama and a happening pop/rock soundtrack; if you didn’t know better, you’d think Anything came straight from the Hughes factory.
I prefer Anything to the usual Hughes flick, though I don’t know if it quite deserves the stellar reputations it’s built for itself. Anything inspires a great deal of positive sentiment among its fans, and while I like the film, I’m not especially wild about it. With the possible exception of Mr. Court, I thought its supporting characters suffered from rather weak development, as they really remained excessively supporting. Granted, the movie was meant to concentrate on Lloyd and Diane, but the others kind of came and went without much rhyme or reason, and the story never fleshed any of them out to a particularly satisfying degree.
Considering Crowe’s desire for realism, I also felt that too much of Anything came across as overly melodramatic. The whole subplot that involves Mr. Court and the IRS seemed unnecessary to me. It felt like it existed mainly to provide additional drama, but that wasn’t needed. We had enough tension due to Diane’s conflict; the choice she had to make between Lloyd and London seemed more than sufficient to sustain the story. I won’t say that events such as those that affected Mr. Court don’t happen, but in this instance, I thought they appeared a bit phony.
Otherwise, Anything worked quite well, largely due to the charms of its lead actors. At times, I thought Skye seemed somewhat stiff as Diane, but usually that tendency made sense for the character; I can’t say I’m convinced Skye behaved that way on purpose, but as long as the end result was positive, I won’t kvetch. Cusack appeared perfectly cast as Lloyd. Quirky but not obnoxious, handsome but not too pretty, and intelligent but not smug or condescending, he lent the part a bright and vivid charm that helped carry the movie. Without Cusack in the lead, Anything likely wouldn’t have been nearly as successful.
Crowe’s knack for finding the honesty in small moments also aided Anything. Hughes always tended to go for the sentimental or the superficial, but Crowe brought a nice depth and general believability to the flick. As I already noted, I thought some aspects of the film stretched this notion, but overall, Anything hit home. I’ve been out of high school for almost 25 years, but one viewing of this movie brought back a lot of the feelings from those screwy years. Not much about my life resembled any of the leads, but Crowe got the tone right, which made it all seem like yesterday.
Or maybe last week. Whatever the case, Say Anything… will bring back those high school days for many of us - for better or for worse. Actually, I don’t know if that’ll be as true for folks who didn’t graduate in the Eighties; the film feels like a part of that era, which made it easier for me to identify with it. Still, I think the flick connects strongly enough with universal sentiments that it should work for many different audiences. While not a great movie, Say Anything... has enough going for it to merit a look.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+ / Bonus B+
Say Anything… appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Very few concerns appeared here, as the movie looked quite good, especially given its vintage.
Sharpness was surprisingly positive. I expected the usual 80s softness, and a little of that occurred, as the occasional wide shots seemed a smidgen ill-defined. However, most of the flick demonstrated nice clarity and delineation; the flick wasn’t super-precise, but it was appropriately detailed. Jagged edges and moiré effects showed no concerns, and I detected no signs of edge enhancement. Print flaws were very minor. I noticed a speck or two but nothing else; grain remained within expected levels, and the flick was usually clean.
Colors tended to be good. The film used a restrained but natural palette, and across the board, the tones seemed clear and reasonably accurate. Given the Seattle setting, they didn’t leap off the screen, but they were full and accurate. Black levels appeared nicely deep and rich, and shadow detail was clear and appropriately opaque without any excessive murkiness or heaviness. Ultimately, Say Anything presented a pretty solid picture that just barely fell short of “A”-levels.
I also felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Say Anything… As long as you don’t expect the mix to provide a slam-bang presentation on the order of a modern action flick, I think you’ll be very pleased with it. Music and dialogue drove Anything. Speech stayed in the front center, but the score and songs spread very nicely to the other channels. The music mainly showed a forward bias, but the rears added a solid layer of reinforcement to the tunes. I found the music to come across as quite involving and engaging throughout the movie; the soundtrack replicated this aspect of the film well.
Effects appeared throughout the film in a general and ambient manner, and the audio replicated them fairly well. Those elements remained pretty firmly anchored in the front channels, where I consistently heard good environmental audio but little else. During the party scene, the surrounds opened up a bit, but even then, the speaker usage resulted mainly from the music; effects stayed firmly in the background through most of Anything.
Audio quality appeared strong. Speech consistently sounded natural and warm, with no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Given the prominence of dialogue in Anything, that was especially important. Modest though they were, effects seemed clean and accurate, with reasonable dynamics and no issues related to distortion. Music remained the strongest aspect of the track. Those elements came across as nicely bright and clear, with positive highs and solid bass response. No, the mix didn’t give my subwoofer a workout, but the songs seemed well reproduced and appropriately musical. In the end, Say Anything won’t dazzle you with its sonics, but I felt it was a very fine track for its age and the material.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-ray compare to those of the original 2002 DVD? Overall, the audio was a wash. The lossless DTS track here might’ve been a little livelier, but I didn’t discern significant differences between the two mixes.
On the other hand, the Blu-ray offered substantial visual improvements. Sharpness was considerably tighter, and the Blu-ray lost most of the mild source flaws from the DVD. It also seemed to be smoother and more vivid. This was an impressive transfer.
The Blu-ray includes the extras from the 2002 DVD along with some new components. I’ll mark Blu-ray exclusives with special blue type.
First we find an audio commentary from director Cameron Crowe and actors John Cusack and Ione Skye. All three were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. Unusually, the commentary starts 20 minutes prior to the opening of the film! We get a fore-chat from the three as they warm up for the full track. Crowe tells us how he started the project, and the actors relate the ways in which they became involved.
It’s a great way to begin the piece, and they keep things going well during the commentary proper. Crowe dominates the experience, and Skye seems to get a little buried by the men at times, but all three still contribute some very good information. It’s a very informative and rich commentary that covers a large mix of subjects; from interpretation of parts of the film to Eric Stoltz’s stint as production assistant, you’ll learn a lot about the flick, and it all comes out in an entertaining and casual manner.
Another piece that accompanies the film, a trivia track provides various notes about the flick. Entitled “To Know Say Anything… Is to Love It”, this piece gives us tidbits about cast and crew, aspects of the production, and elements related to the story such as kickboxing. Some questionable “facts” appear – like a statement about all the grunge rock in the movie that refers to decidedly non-grunge bands like Fishbone, Red Hot Chili Peppers and “In Living Color” – but usually this is an enjoyable take on the flick.
Next we find scads of unused footage, that appears via three different domains. First we discover five alternate scenes. Actually, that number’s a little misleading, as some of them include multiple takes of the same sequence. Anyway, the different segments last between one minute, 44 seconds and three minutes, 35 seconds for a total of 11 minutes, five seconds of footage. Some of the material’s interesting, especially as the various shots of Cusack and the boombox feature songs other than “In Your Eyes”; alternately, we hear a Fishbone tune and Elvis Costello’s “Tokyo Storm Warning”. I’m pretty sure neither was ever intended as the final track for the scene; that portion of the film demanded something at least vaguely romantic, and the grinding and cacophonic “Warning” falls far from that requirement. Overall, these snippets will be useful mainly for the flick’s biggest fans; otherwise they aren’t terribly fascinating.
More compelling are the 10 deleted scenes. These run between 16 seconds and three minutes, 41 seconds for a total of 13 minutes and 17 seconds of material. These are vaguely interesting but there’s nothing tremendously valuable that hit the cutting room floor. Most of the scenes show more of John Mahoney, and we also see some extra shots of Cusack and old folks.
The excised material comes to a close in the longest section, one that provides 13 extended scenes. These go for between 48 seconds and four minutes, 16 seconds for a total of 24 minutes and 39 seconds of shots. As with the prior two areas, none of this footage seems revelatory, but there’s still some interesting stuff here. Actually, I think some of these clips are the most fun of the bunch. Helpfully, the shots from the final film appear in black and white, while the added bits are in color. This isn’t a perfect rule - a few snippets from the finished film aren’t B&W - but it’s still a nice way to let us distinguish the added parts.
A vintage featurette lasts six minutes and 58 seconds. It’s essentially a glorified trailer. We hear from Crowe, Cusack, Skye and actor John Mahoney as they tell us about the story and little more. Unfortunately, they relate far too much information about the plot; quite a few potential spoilers - like the ending - appear. Even without that flaw, it’s still a boring piece that offers no useful facts.
More interesting elements follow. An Iconic Film Revisited: Say Anything… 20 Years Later lasts 21 minutes, 57 seconds and includes Crowe, Cusack, Skye, Mahoney, musician/songwriter/composer Nancy Wilson and music supervisor Danny Bramson. The show looks at the story and themes, the tale’s origins and development, cast and performances, music, various aspects of the production, and valedictory thoughts. On its own, this is a good overview, but it covers a lot of material heard elsewhere; how many times can we be told that Eric Stoltz was a PA on the set? It’s enjoyable but lacks a ton of new information.
We hear more from the writer/director via the nine-minute, 31-second A Conversation with Cameron Crowe. Here Crowe discusses how he became the film’s director and working as a first-timer, studio issues with the script, casting, character notes, and a few production specifics. Once again, we get useful information. Once again, some of this repeats elsewhere. Still, there’s less redundancy here than during “Iconic”, so it’s worth a look.
I Love Say Anything… goes for seven minutes, 30 seconds and presents remarks from Weird Al Yankovic, Cathy Tanaka, Anthony Ramos, Thomas Lennon, Marianne Sierk, Dwayne Perkins, Robert Ben Garant, Greg Wilson, and Beth Littleford. This mix of comedians and actors offer an appreciation for the flick. It’s less tongue in cheek than you might expect, but it’s not especially interesting.
From there we get two theatrical trailers as well as eight TV spots. There’s also a Photo Gallery. It provides 75 images; these mix publicity shots, pictures from the set, and elements from the movie. It’s a decent collection.
As a movie, I think Say Anything… is somewhat overrated. However, it provides a fairly charming and moderately realistic tale that helps distinguish itself from other teen-oriented flicks of the period. The Blu-ray provides consistently good picture and sound plus a positive compilation of extras. A rare teen film that works beyond its audience and era, Say Anything… isn’t without flaws, but it still provides an entertaining experience. The Blu-ray gives us a fine presentation that is a
“must-have” for fans, even the ones who already own the prior DVD.
To rate this film, visit the original review of SAY ANYTHING