Growing up, I was always a sucker for a good romantic comedy. During these teen years, I was an even bigger sucker for any John Cusack flick. He was a well liked guy and continuously portrayed characters who were equally likeable. I saw the fact that he often starred in comedies with heavy romantic elements as a huge plus. Big favorites still include 'One Crazy Summer', 'The Sure Thing', and 'Better Off Dead'. But the one film that has continually stood out amongst all the others has to be 'Say Anything'. Besides his small role in 'Sixteen Candles', this is probably Cusack's most memorable character from the 1980s if not his entire career.
After graduation, average student and aspiring kickboxer Lloyd Dobler (Cusack) calls valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye) and asks her out. Social hierarchies normally forbid him from talking with her (she's a "brain", he's not), but she's charmed by Lloyd's bold invitation and agrees to the date. To her surprise, she likes spending time with him, and they eventually fall in love. But as with any young couple, real life soon intervenes. Diane's father (John Mahoney) is being investigated for tax fraud, and this puts a heavy strain on their relationship, which forces Diane to make a heartbreaking decision.
The story of an underachiever falling in love with the smartest girl in school remains a classic of the period and it cemented John Cusack's career as a leading man. As the goofy but big-hearted Lloyd Dobler, he displays incredible range and convinces the audience this guy is real. In any other, more predictable, film, Cusack would be annoyingly lamenting the loss. But not here. Lloyd talks with and confides in his sister (Joan Cusack), his two best friends, D.C. (Amy Brooks) and Corey (played perfectly by Lili Taylor), and a group of guys who think they know girls but hang out by a convenience store on a Saturday night.
Ione Skye is also compelling and realistic in the role of a seemingly aloof and presumably unapproachable overachiever. Discovering everyone at school knew of her but never really knew her, Diane strays from conventions and stands out as an individual with little social interaction. She talks openly and honestly with her father about her relationship with Lloyd and anything else that occupies her brilliant mind. This all plays out perfectly when the time comes for Diane to confront her father over the illegal activities that are the focus of the investigation surrounding him. Skye takes us through this emotional journey without missing a beat and delivers a realistic and heartfelt reaction.
Why spend so much time writing about the two lead actors? Because the narrative centers on the characters they portray, their interaction together, and their unpredictable need for one another. Without their genuine performances, the entire production could've easily failed. Working from Cameron Crowe's original script, which also marked his directorial debut, the entire film simply feels believable and authentic because there's a certain odd familiarity with the kids. They are much like those we knew in high school, as in Taylor's overly dramatic Corey, and their dialogue feels natural and accurate instead of rehearsed.
At the time, Cameron Crowe was a young, inexperienced director, and he took a chance combining the 80s teen movie with the heartbreaking realities of a first true-love. Added to this is a narrative which takes its romcom elements seriously within the universe of teenagers. It doesn't pander to goofball pratfalls to gain a laugh. The script and character interactions trust the audience is smart enough to see the humor. The end result is an iconic scene of a boy with a boombox overhead, playing Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes." Next time I visit a nursing home, I must remember to take along my VHS copy of 'Cocoon'.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Fox Home Entertainment brings 'Say Anything …' to Blu-ray for the first time as a 20th Anniversary Edition in the now-standard eco-friendly keepcase. The slipcover features Lloyd in the iconic boombox pose in front of a plain white background, giving it a genuine 80s feel.
The disc comes with one forced trailer promoting Blu-ray products before the main menu. The top menu is an animated yearbook with photo stills taken from the film and full motion captures. After a few seconds, the pages turn to reveal more stills and captures.
Although it doesn't compare to some of the best we've seen on the Blu-ray format, 'Say Anything …' arrives with a great-looking 1080p/AVC-encoded (1.85:1) transfer I'm sure fans will appreciate.
For a 20-year-old catalog title, the print appears to be in great shape, as details and resolution display a clear improvement from previous releases. There are few moments of softness, which should be expected, but it's nothing so severe as to take away from the film's enjoyment. Fine textures in clothing are quite revealing and appreciable, and although facial complexions possess a slight red push, they maintain a natural appearance for the most part. Contrast and clarity are spot-on, as visibility of background info is better than ever. Black levels are deep and full-bodied, and shadow delineation remains strong throughout. Primaries are the showstoppers of the piece, looking rich and vibrant, and secondary hues are rendered accurately. 'Say Anything …' has never looked better.
Fox Home Entertainment tacks on a very impressive DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack to Cameron Crowe's classic romantic comedy. Engineers have done an amazing job updating the original sound elements without sounding artificial or forced. The entire soundfield can be quite lively at times, as rear speakers fill with random sounds of outside traffic or the voices of crowded areas. Activity is not maintained consistently, but when used appropriately, they create a nice atmosphere. The lossless mix is for the most part centered in the front soundstage, delivering clear, precise dialogue, a well-balanced and clean dynamic range, and convincing acoustical presence. Low-frequency effects are not a major component of the track, but they are used when the occasion arises. Overall, the film sounds better than ever on Blu-ray.
For its 20 year anniversary, Fox Home Entertainment releases 'Say Anything …' with a really nice and entertaining collection of bonus material, most of which are carried over from its day-and-date counterpart.
Twenty years later, 'Say Anything …' remains just as charming and endearing as when it originally premiered. John Cusack and Ione Skye are perfectly matched, and Crowe's script challenges and rewards its audience with a refreshing take of the teen romance genre. Although it doesn't compare to other catalog titles, this Blu-ray release gives fans a serious A/V improvement sure to be appreciated. The supplemental package comes with some new material as well as a couple of exclusives to make the purchase worthwhile. It's highly recommended.