John Cusack had done the 80’s adolescent romantic comedy thing to death. In one fashion or another, The Sure Thing, One Crazy Summer, Better Off Dead and Hot Pursuit had some mix of smooching and laughs to them, and Cusack was the main character. So why did he decide to do another in Say Anything, the directing debut for Cameron Crowe?
There was something new to it I suppose. In Lloyd, Cusack found the guy that might not go to an even decent college whe… he graduated from college. But he does find Diane (Ione Skye, River’s Edge), and he finds his inspiration, this seemingly goalless kid finds out what he wants to do: He wants to be with her. He doesn’t want to “buy, sell or process anything,” he wants to be with this beautiful, intelligent woman as she gets ready to go off for a scholarship to England. Diane is the only daughter in a divorced household, and she decided to stay with her father James (John Mahoney, Frasier), who has done what he can to raise Diane to be the best she possibly can, to the point where it may be interpreted as almost incestuous. Not in an explicit way, but his obsession with protecting her and seeing that she does well could maybe be looked at as a bit unhealthy. James has a dark secret that enters the film, and results in a decision that Diane has to make.
Perhaps Crowe’s experiences, writing for Rolling Stone at a young age, and barely turning 25 when Fast Times at Ridgemont High hit theaters, have influenced him somehow. But he seems to have a knack for writing funny, smart characters, despite the irony that he didn’t get the chance to enjoy his childhood when he should have. Like Fast Times, Say Anything is full of memorable lines (“I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen” or “Lloyd Dobler, alright!”), and the one scene it’s noted for is the one where Cusack holds up a boombox that blares “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel to Diane’s window, a song that played when they were first intimate. That song woke me up at nights with scary thoughts, because it was played on the radio enough to the point where my ears bled; looking back on it now, I still don’t like the song that much, but the emotions and actions surrounding that song are things that anyone who’s had a broken heart can identify with. After several years, Fox put this film out as a fairly loaded but inexpensive DVD.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital track sounds good, and serves to emphasize the music in it, but the dialogue seemed much tighter on the 2.0 soundtrack, and the dialogue is most of the movie here.
Coming in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, the image looks pristine, with very little to complain about. Black levels are very constant, and everything appears very clear on screen. The film always seemed to be lit a bit bright than others, but everything looks good.
The biggest and best feature on the disc has gotta be the commentary track with Skye, Cusack and Crowe, all recorded together. Commentary tracks with Crowe are always entertaining, but this one is the best. The track is so lengthy, that it starts about 20 minutes before they even start the movie! Crowe talks about where he was professionally, and how James Brooks helped him with his writing when he was on the set of Broadcast News. He also shares who his inspiration for Lloyd was (an old apartment neighbor), and how he wrote the characters, and what (he thinks) the actors perceived them to be. He also talked about his 1st time director experiences, and in working with the seasoned Cusack. Skye also said (during the scene where she was taught how to drive a manual transmission car) that if they weren’t already seeing other people, they probably could have hooked up romantically, something that took both Crowe and Cusack by surprise. It’s a really good discussion, thought some of it is observational (lookit this, lookit that, etc.), some fun is had spotting friends and relatives, and very enjoyable to listen to. The next group of features is the alternate, deleted and extended scenes, 30 of them running for about 50 minutes. By and large, the reasons for the cuts were evident, as they slowed the pace of the movie down, but the alternate takes were OK, particularly of Lloyd in the phonebooth talking to his sister. The song on the boombox for those alternate takes really is bad, so I guess Peter Gabriel was a pretty good upgrade (there, I confess). There was a scene involving Diane’s father that was very good, and I think should have been left in, so you could really hate him all the more when the truth was found out. The extended scenes have a cool feature, where the final cut footage is interspersed, but shown in black and white, with the extended footage being in color. This was a very nice touch by Fox. A 7 minute featurette is included that is essentially an EPK, featuring on-set interviews with Cusack, Skye, Crowe and Mahoney. For the few of you who have not seen the movie, skip this, as the film clips included are in chronological order and full of spoilers. 2 trailers and 9 TV spots follow, and a section entitled Cameron Crowe’s photo gallery looked promising, but only resulted in a total of 7 photos.
With all due respect to the other Cusack romantic comedies, this one is the best. It’s full of classic lines, and an inexpensive price gets you an anamorphic widescreen transfer, Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, the usual extras, and one of the best commentary tracks you’ll hear. If you don’t buy this disc, Lloyd Dobler is coming to your house and playing Peter Gabriel until YOU’RE sick of it! A must own.
Special Features List
- Cast/Director Commentary
- Alternate Scenes
- Trailers & TV Spots