This movie is pretty close to HEATHERS in my all-time favorite list (even if years later I realized how problematic some parts of it are). John Cusack stars as Lloyd Dobler and Ione Skye stars as Diane Cort. As the film opens they’re both graduating from High School, where they attended together but never actually met. But recently while “sitting across from her at the mall” while eaTing, Lloyd has become infatuated with Diane and plans to ask her out despite the advice of his three close female friends Cory (Lili Taylor), D.C. (Amy Brooks), and Rebecca (Pamela Adlon) who insist that he has no chance with her, due to the fact she’s the smartest girl in school and Class Valedictorian, while Lloyd is just an average (but nice) guy. They just don’t want to see him get hurt. “I wanna get hurt!” Lloyd loudly proclaims, and off he goes.
Diane lives with her father, James (John Mahoney), who runs a retirement home for senior citizens, where Diana also works. She’s just received a fellowship to go study in England after the summer. Lloyd’s parents are in the army, so he lives with his single older sister, Constance (Joan Cusack), and her young son Jason (Glenn Walker Harris Jr.). His longterm goal involves becoming a professional kickboxer, while his only immediate goal is dating Diane. He finally gets the courage to call her and ask her out and, after some prodding, she accepts. They go to a party (surprising many people who can’t believe that they’re together) and have a good time. Afterword he announces his wish to simply spend as much time with her as possible that summer before she leaves. And that begins their summer romance. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the classic line of dialog from this film, when Lloyd is at Diane’s house for dinner with her father and some of her father’s friends. When asked what his plans for the future are, Lloyd replies:
I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed.
Despite Diane’s initial insistence that she and Lloyd simply be “friends with potential”, the relationship deepens as they share many romantic and funny moments together, such as Lloyd teaching Diane how to drive and Diane bringing Lloyd to her job so he can get over his nervousness being around old people. One night they make love in the backseat of his car, it’s the first time for her might also be the first time for him, although that’s unclear. However Diane’s life becomes more complicated when the Feds begin investigating her father for stealing from his clients as the retirement home. After pressure from her father Diane breaks up with Lloyd just after he tells her he loves her. Lloyd is heartbroken, and proceeds to try to win her back. That’s where the film first get problematic, as I’ve written about before when WHEN “STALKING” LOOKS ROMANTIC… and HOW THE MEDIA MESSES UP OUR MINDS (WHEN IT COMES TO DATING AND RELATIONSHIPS) that Lloyds behavior (excessive phones calls and standing outside her bedroom window) is actually pretty darn creepy. But credit to Cusack for his performance, he makes Lloyd seem so earnest and sincere that you can’t help but ignore all that, and root for the poor guy.
In the end Diane does come back to him. She says goodbye to her father, who is sent to jail for his crimes and she and Lloyd fly off to England together. THE END
Ione Skye is also excellent in her role, she and Cusack have great chemistry together, and the way Diane and Lloyd’s relationship progresses over the course of the film feels very natural. And of course I must give kudos to Cameron Crowe for the script (read an interesting post about the script HERE). This film is definitely a step above the typical “teen romance” films of the 1980’s.
However, when you really think about it, there’s a reason there’s no sequel, no Say Anything 2. This relationship is pretty much doomed to failure. Diane is a smart ambitious girl. She’s going off to England for college. Lloyd, on the other hand, has no real clear objective for his future, as he mentions several times in the film, beyond his vague notions of wanting to be a professional kickboxer, which he thinks is “the sport of the future” (and as we see in real life, he was wrong, kickboxing never did take off as a mainstream professional sport). Other than that, his sole immediate desire is to spend time with Diane. That may be great while they’re spending the summer together in their hometown, but when they get to England and she starts attending classes, what’s Lloyd going to be doing? Diane’s father was actually right when he asked Diane in the film:
“After the excitement wears off, then what, huh? What are you going to talk about? What do you have in common? You’re going to be part of an international think-tank, and he’s going to be kicking punching bags.”
There’s also the fact that Diane has been rather sheltered her whole life, Lloyd is her first serious relationship, now she’s in a foreign country for the first time and going to be meeting new people, new teachers and other smart students like herself. She’s got interests that Lloyd just won’t be able to keep up with. Eventually those differences are going to become too great, and Lloyd will be moving back to America to figure out what to do with his life (probably joining the army like his dad, after all, or getting some job where he buys, sells, or processes something….), while Diane continues her education in England. I’m afraid that there’s just no happily ever after for those two. But it’s still a great movie.