The last time I visited my optometrist for my annual exam I happened to walk (a little unsteadily considering that I was temporarily blind) into the room where they have you wait while your eyes dilute from the eye drops. It’s usually full whenever I go of seniors discussing their cataract operations, but I had to smile when I heard that the piped in music system was now playing Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” a song that like Simple Minds “Don’t You Forget About Me,” and “Twist and Shout,” is irrevocably linked to an iconic eighties’ movie scene. In this case, of course, it’s the famous boombox scene where John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobbler declares his love – even though she dumped him by giving him a pen – to Ione Skye’s Diane Court.
“Say Anything” is cinematic proof (or wish fulfillment) that gorgeous girls really do want a guy with a “good sense of humor.” Witness the moment in the movie when a girl asks Ione why she went out with John, and she simply responds, “He made me laugh.” When a guy asks John how he got Ione to go out with him, he just responds that he asked her, which makes the guy happy. (“Thanks, that gives me hope!”) As the movie progresses, it becomes clear that both possess a lot more to them than just the surface qualities. Ione, who is described as being “a brain trapped in the body of a game show hostess”, may be impossibly elegant and classy, but she’s about to have her character put to the test, when her beloved father (John Mahoney), who she chose over her mom when they divorced, gets a visit from the IRS who suddenly wants to probe into his business affairs. And John, an aspiring kickboxer, who gives a speech about not wanting to buy, sell or process anything when he’s grilled by Ione’s dad, has to decide whether or not to pursue a relationship that as Ione puts it at the end, no one thinks is going to last.
“Say Anything,” was also a revelation to me as a teen because it was probably the first teen movie I saw in which the characters attempt to behave somewhat responsibly when they attend a graduation party. John is greeted at the door with, “Lloyd, tonight you’re the keymaster,” and while I’ve never gone to a real life party where this occurs, it always struck me as smart. (Even the guidance counselor surrenders her key to John.) Anyway, this means that everyone gets home safely and actually helps prolong his date with Ione, which turns out even better than they probably both expect.
For party drama, however, there’s the plight of poor Corey Flood (Lilli Taylor), a folksinger who discovers that her boyfriend Joe (Loren Dean) is a cheating douchebag and decides to fight back with the power of song. But she’s also smart enough not to accept his “apology,” which is basically a solicitation for sex. Forget Stef in “Pretty in Pink,” this guy is the ultimate in scummy boyfriends. Of course, I realized, though not for years, that his primary function in the movie is to make John Cusack’s Lloyd, who is is cut from a totally different mold, look even better.
John’s parents in the movie are away, so we don’t get to judge them (he lives with his older sister and her little boy), but we do get to pass judgment on John Mahoney’s character, who at first appears the cliché of a doting dad, complete with giving his daughter a car as a graduation gift (though it’s a stick), but who we discover has been fleecing his elderly clients for years in order to provide Ione with a comfortable lifestyle. He’s not pure evil, but he is seriously morally flawed – and discovering this, helps make John’s and Ione’s bond even stronger. Ultimately, John decides to accompany Ione on her trip to England, where she’s received a prestigious fellowship to study. We last see them about to take off on an airplane. John points out optimistically that all great success stories start with no one having faith that they’ll happen, and on that note, the movie ends. Time will tell.