A classic coming of age film that teaches us about life.
This isn’t your typical romantic teenage comedy. Say Anything is honest and open about the love shared between a boy and a girl, as well as a girl and her father. The characters are real, and struggle with trust, expectations, and the future. They stay true to themselves, making Say Anything a film always worth revisiting.
John Cusack stars as Lloyd, who has had a crush on the valedictorian Diane (Ion Skye) all throughout high school. He works up the nerve to call her up and invites her to the senior party. After some rambling persuasion on Lloyd’s behalf, she eventually agrees—under the pretext that Lloyd makes her laugh.
After the party Lloyd brings Diane back home late because he has been kindly driving around Seattle trying to deliver a guy from the party back to his house. The first time I watched Say Anything was in high school, and I remember being envious that Diane didn’t get in trouble for coming home late. Then again, I wasn’t half as responsible as she was and she had a much more open relationship with her father than is normal for most teens. She shares everything with her Dad (John Mahoney), including the story of how she lost her virginity. It is this openness that later makes her father’s arrest by the IRS so shocking.
Lloyd lives with his sister (played by his real-life sister Joan Cusack) and nephew. While Diane has a scholarship to England, Lloyd is less sure of his future. He has the loose plan to become a professional kick-boxer, and then adopts the idea to simply be there for Diane.
The two fall in love in the beautiful Seattle summer, spending time in cars and staying out until the early hours of morning. This worries Diane’s father because he thinks she will throw away her future after spending so much time with Lloyd. Diane is obedient and tells Lloyd that she needs to be spending more time with her father before she is to leave for England. But Lloyd is diligent and knows he is indeed worthy of her time. Like a prince in an ‘80s fairytale, he beckons Diane from below her bedroom window, boom box in hand. Except this isn’t a fairytale and she doesn’t let down her locks. She doesn’t even respond.
What makes this romantic comedy an enduring and relevant film is its realistic depiction of both of the good and bad human qualities. Diane turns to Lloyd after she finds out her father is guilty of the crimes charged by the IRS. She is forced to reconsider her father’s advice in leaving Lloyd and decides for herself that she loves him and wants him in her life. When she goes to Lloyd’s kickboxing gym to tell him, he is so stunned to see her that he loses focus and gets knocked in the face. She tells him she needs him, to which he boldly replies “Because you need someone, or because you need me?” He answers himself, “Forget it. I don’t care.”
As Rogert Ebert puts it, “A movie like this is possible because its maker believes in the young characters, and in doing the right thing, and in staying true to oneself. Say Anything is one of those rare movies that has something to teach us about life. It doesn’t have a ‘lesson’ or a ‘message,’ but it observes its moral choices so carefully that it helps us see our own.”