Here are two questions only about one person can answer: What’s it like when your first screenplay is THE iconic high school movie? Here’s another. What’s it like when your directorial debut is THE iconic loser guy chases girl who’s out of your league? Who can tell you what that’s like? No, not John Hughes. Someone else. Okay. You, guy in the back who didn’t get laid until you were 23. Louder, please. Right. Cameron Crowe.
There are several significant similarities between Crowe and Hughes. Both were either writing and/or directing their best work through the 80’s and 90’s, both were known for comedies centered on teenagers, and both were connected to some outstanding films, including Crowe for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Jerry Maguire, and Almost Famous. Hughes for The Breakfast Club. and the National Lampoon’s Vacation and Home Alone series. Serieses. Serii? – Siri!
There are also several significant differences between the two writer/directors. What first comes to mind is Hughes is dead. Also, he had an incredibly bad haircut that, like himself, was stuck in the 80’s. The most important difference was that Crowe’s films during the 80’s were not locked into the 80’s. His stories were about characters and not caricatures. Hughes’s films featured people like Ferris Beuller and that little shit from Home Alone who could never be real people and, while greatly funny, there’s no sense that any of it could actually happen. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I love Indiana Jones, but c’mon, that ain’t happening. In Crowe’s films, you could feel that those people were as real as anyone else, and the most real of the real was Lloyd Dobler.
Released 25 years ago this past week was Say Anything, in which Lloyd (John Cusack) is the ultimate high school nice guy/semi-loser whose only future plan is to be a kickboxer. Diane Court (Ione Skye) is the beautiful, shy, valedictorian with a scholarship to study in London and a very protective father (John Mahoney) who once vowed to his daughter that, no matter what happens in life, just be honest and always know you can “say anything” and it’ll be okay.
Lloyd and Diane also feel they can “say anything,” and that leads to two very different people who have enough in common for a great romance. Not sure if “romance” is the right word for teenagers, but, whatever. They’re going out, and they’re happy. Okay? Speaking of “okay,” it’s not okay when Diane learns that Dad didn’t keep to the honesty pledge, which leads to trouble with the IRS and their lives fall apart. That includes Diane and Lloyd falling apart, with a little influence from dishonest dad.
Does it sound exciting? No. A fun-filled teenage romp? Not a bit. But it’s an honest reveal of what happens when losers take a chance and winners are willing to keep an open mind for losers who take a chance. If this were a Hughes film, well, it would never be a Hughes film. That’s not a knock on Hughes. He made great, funny-as-hell films in a certain direction, but his films never had the “guts” of a Cameron Crowe film. And, for losers like us, no film has as much guts as Say Anything.