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Say Anything...
Special Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 100 minutes

Starring: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney, Lili Taylor

Written and Directed by: Cameron Crowe

 

Studio: Fox

Retail Price: $19.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Cameron Crowe, John Cusack and Ione Skye, 10 Deleted Scenes, 13 Extended Scenes, 5 Alternate Scenes, Featurette, Cameron Crowe's Personal Photo Gallery, TV Spots, Theatrical Trailers

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Stereo, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Chapter Index (20 Chapters)

Released: March 5th, 2002

 

"One question: do you need someone or do you need me?"

"I need you."

 

Cameron Crowe wastes no time setting up the plot and ideals of "Say Anything..." as we more or less instantly jump right into such an honest and realistic portrait of teenage love. As our story begins in Seattle, Washington sometime during the late 1980s, we meet recent high school graduates Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and Diane Court (Ione Skye). The two couldn't be farther from one another, yet somehow, when they connect in the film, it's hard to imagine them not being even closer. Lloyd is a slacker somewhat who lives with his sister and her young son. Lloyd has no ambition and really has no idea what he wants to do with his life... well, maybe except for kickboxing. Lloyd also seems to fit right in with those around him. Diane, on the other hand, is a bit more lonely. Besides being class valedictorian, we learn early on in the film that Diane is accepted to further her studies in England. The only things she has besides her brains and beauty is her close relationship with her loving father, James (John Mahoney).

So, Lloyd decides to pursue the girl of his dreams. Despite warning from his two best friends (especially the emotionally fragile Corey played by Lili Taylor), both girls, Lloyd gathers everything he has inside and calls her up. Presenting himself as open and true, Lloyd speaks with her father and a message is left. Diane gets the message, and the two go out to a party. Diane experiences things she never really had before at the party... mainly, people getting to know her. So Diane and Lloyd spend more and more time together, and get to know one another more and more. It's truly a beautiful relationship. But reality can wreck that, seeing how they each have their own destinies to fulfill and Diane's father. At first he seems to like Lloyd, but he gradually does not approve of their relationship and Lloyd himself, especially since he feels that Diane, who again, he's very fond of and close to, is spending less and less time with him right before she's supposed to go to England. James is also having his own personal problems, namely, with the IRS. But true love is true love... and that can overcome all, right? Maybe... but standing outside your lover's home holding a boom box sure does help.

To me, "Say Anything..." can be described in two words: sheer brilliance. This is all thanks to writer and director Cameron Crowe (and if you've read stuff on this site before, most namely my review of Almost Famous, you'll know I'm a big fan of his work). Crowe made his directorial debut with "Say Anything..." and its truly one of the most impressive directorial debuts I've ever seen on film. Many do criticize Crowe for being a stronger writer and a weaker director. I've said it once and I'll say it again: I don't think that's true. I think he's really strong in both areas. "Say Anything..." is by no means an elaborate production. It has no need for that. This movie is incredibly realistic and Crowe shot it pitch-perfect. The editing in the film is rather nice and gives you a great feel of the atmosphere the story presents. The same goes for the variety of shots and Crowe's style as well as approach. Crowe sets the film at a great pace and really captures what the story is all about: relationships and true love with comic and conflict, all sealed with an amazing amount of heart that feels right; not manipulated or sappy.

Crowe's direction is wonderful, but of course, there is his fabulous story and script. Most of us know that Crowe is a superb writer (a strong force when he wrote for the magazine Rolling Stone), and this isn't his first time writing a script (adapting his book "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and co-writing "The Wild Life"). Crowe creates such rich material out of what is a clichéd plotline: boy doesn't know girl, boy has crush on girl, boy wants to win girl's heart, wins heart, conflicts ensue all over. It's amazing how Crowe takes something similar to this and makes it feel like such a fresh, new idea. "Say Anything..." blazes with a load of originality and leaves similar films of this nature in the dust.

It's how Crowe structures his story, his dialogue and his characters that makes it all shine and come together. Crowe avoids a good deal of stereotypes and clichés and gives us the unexpected, something which is a mark in all his films. When you hear about the plot and then see the film, it's never how you thought it would be (well for me anyway). Take Diane Court, for example. You'd expect someone as beautiful and smart as her to be incredibly popular. Someone like that may be that way in a lot of television shows and movies (not to mention my book "Alter The Stars" - sorry for the cheap plug). But not here. It's not that she is hated or has no friends or anything, but we get the sense that no one knows her at all since she's so involved with school and studying. She also has a really strong relationship with her father whereas in many movies and television shows, parents don't have such a strong focus or they are nonexistent in everything. The character of James Court is such a key player in the movie, not to mention how much of a catalyst and strong character he is. It's really him that brings so much out between Diane and Lloyd.

Crowe's story may mostly take place after high school, but you're still dealing with teenagers no matter how you look at it. Crowe's dialogue is very realistic and the words that come out of the mouths of every character really does seem like someone would say. Lloyd's nervous words, Diane's cheerfulness, James' protective guidance... graduation, the party scene... you name it and you wouldn't be surprised if any of this happened to someone and those words were said. It's all very subtle and all very natural, something I really respect and really love. There's so much honesty within the words.

The story itself though has a lot of heart and a lot of soul, just like the dialogue. It's something that becomes a bit more rare in these type of films as year go by. I believe there is not one dull scene within the film. When I first saw it, I always wanted to know what happened next, and everything does lead to something. Yet how it's all done and how we meet all the characters is very special. The setup, the buildup and how it all goes is really great and like the dialogue, feels natural and very realistic. Lloyd gets the courage to ask Diane out, they do bond with the party and his willingness to do what she does and then they are tested by reality itself - facing their destinies and Diane's father. Just like in "Almost Famous"... every scene really does serve a purpose. None of what is presented in "Say Anything..." is filler. It's quite a look at life and love, and how Crowe thought of it and accomplished it all without much flaw just amazes me and inspires me.

Yet what makes a story and its dialogue? Why, what drives it all are the characters. As the characters find themselves, we find the characters in the process. "Say Anything..." features a good deal of them, but the main focus of the film is on Lloyd, Diane and James. They may be all different, but they are all connected by one thing: love. It's what drives them and it's what conflicts all of them too. Lloyd is incredibly optimistic and is willing to do anything for Diane. He really loves her and is truly inspired by her. James will do anything for his daughter as well. While he doesn't exactly see eye to eye with Lloyd, they are connected in that sense. They are also all connected by their futures and how they fit into one another's later years. Diane has a strong male role model around her with her father and truly loves him. She chose him over her mother during her parents' divorce and will do anything for him. But then there perhaps is some kind of jealousy in James, knowing that she is growing up and that she's spending more time with Lloyd. Though the last thing Lloyd wants to do is harm her, James feels that the influence and what they're sharing is perhaps more special than what James has shared with his daughter over the course of their lives. Perhaps James also feels threatened by all of this, and that his daughter is so pretty and so bright, while Lloyd has no ambition within him whatsoever. But the biggest mistake James makes is that he includes his daughter in his scam in some ways and lying to her for the sake of her future, even if it does threaten what they share. We may have met these characters before in our own lives. If not, we know that they do exist for sure. All of these characters have their hearts in the right places but it's how they act upon things which complicates so many matters. The symbolisms and themes in this movie are dead on too and cannot be denied in the slightest bit. The pen and how that's conveyed is another mark of brilliance from Crowe. But the themes of love of coming out nowhere, how it builds up and what people will do to maintain their relationships and show their love is all so raw, not to mention about facing your destiny and finding a future. Even if I did just explain a lot about the characters, I feel I've barely scratched the surface.

Yet sometimes what Crowe doesn't "Say" is more. It's hard to not bring up the famous boombox scene, arguably the most poignant scene in the film and one of the most famous scenes in film history from the last twenty-five years (some of you may be surprised of how recognizable it really is). It's amazing how fitting that scene is and how it works so well where no one says a word. It's so thoughtful and touching. The same goes for the final scene on the airplane... the security and love Lloyd shows Diane is so well written and so touching. How odds can be beaten, how things that look terrible can be faced and you can overcome then... the final scene more or less symbolizes the film as a whole. It really brought my heart out and made me feel really nice inside.

So do I have any nitpicks with the movie? Just a couple... and I hate citing them because I'm such a giant fan of the film. But thankfully, my thoughts don't detract from the overall viewing experience and what the film is truly going for in the long run. I felt there could have been a little bit more about Lloyd and his parents, and a some more scenes about Lloyd and his sister. Also, I felt that there should have been more of a closing scene between Lloyd and his friends... I got a sense there could have been more with Corey. But that's just me, and hey, the movie may feature Lloyd, but it's really about his relationship with Diane.

I suppose that is enough about Crowe though... I must focus on the amazing cast who run with everything that Crowe gives them. Of course, we have John Cusack and Ione Skye for the leads. Cusack originally didn't want to do the film if I recall, since he was sick of playing tragic romantic high school characters. Thankfully, Crowe's script won him over and he puts in one of his greatest performances of all time here. Cusack really captures what Lloyd is about: his sincerity, his honesty and smooth qualities. He's just so winning. Cusack has great chemistry with Skye, who's equally as charming. Skye brings out all of Diane's qualities too... her relationships, her nature and her insecurities. Still, I think John Mahoney as Diane's Dad takes the cake. Mahoney really has aged during these past years, but his strong command, his signature voice and realistic portrayal cannot be denied. Like everyone else, he truly shows what his character is about as he is a man who is in conflict with his relationships and feeling threatened. The supporting cast of Jason Gould, Amy Brooks, Lili Taylor and others are just as good, even if their roles are rather short. This is a fine ensemble with such amazing acting. It's yet another reason why "Say Anything..." is such a realistic movie. On another note, the score, written by Richard Gibbs, Anne Dudley and some contributions from Crowe's own wife Nancy Wilson is really good and fits the film perfectly. If I'm not mistaken, the score itself was never released on CD...

The 1980s is a film era that is perhaps best remembered for teen films. While there were some bad ones, there were some good ones. A lot of those films are remembered and still looked upon fondly. "Say Anything..." is one of them. However, I wouldn't call "Say Anything..." a teen film even if it did come out toward the end of that era. Yes this movie is about a relationship between teenage characters, but it works on so many incredible levels and each level is deeper than the one before it. This movie doesn't give off the feeling of a teen film at all because of how smart and true it is... to me, that's a great thing. It feels like a great adult romantic comedy/drama that truly stands out. This movie isn't for a select demographic because it's such a great story and character study for those who aren't just teenagers. It really works for all kinds of audiences in so many endearing ways. I'm sure nearly everyone can relate to some aspect of "Say Anything..." in some way. If you've never seen "Say Anything..." before, you don't know what you're missing. Go out and buy this DVD as soon as you can. If you like romance and great writing, than this deserves a spot in your collection.

 

"Say Anything..." is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio in anamorphic widescreen, and the results are rather fantastic. There's a piece of dirt here and there, not to mention some slight fading and visible film grain throughout, but this is still a strong transfer. Attention to detail and black levels are solid throughout, but I did notice some edge enhancement in the transfer. The night and exterior scenes look really nice, while the whole transfer shines as it's rather sharp and looks rather realistic. Color saturation is dead on too with no bleeding or anything underwhelming whatsoever. Despite its flaws, "Say Anything..." looks terrific and is the best condition I've seen it in.

 

"Say Anything..." has a new Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix that is a bit straight forward and disappointing. My main complaint is the lack of sufficient surround use. Even though this movie is dialogue driven, I was disappointed with the lack of surrounds to light things up. The film features a lot of music, and I felt when music was played, the channels weren't truly and fully encompassed. There wasn't much use of the subwoofer either, and the times there were only any decent surrounds (but nothing truly special) was during the graduation, the party and the ever famous boom box scene. Just don't expect anything major here. With that said, the dialogue is crisp and clear and doesn't sound a day old. You can hear everything. No muffling and no distortion... and hearing the dialogue is key. Also included is a Dolby Surround track in English, a French stereo track, English closed captions, Spanish subtitles and English subtitles.

 

I was just happy to finally have "Say Anything..." on DVD, but Fox has delivered a rather spiffy special edition. It's not incredibly elaborate as some of their recent release, but it stands its own ground and I'm very happy that Crowe participated greatly in this release. To get things rolling, we have an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Cameron Crowe, John Cusack and Ione Skye. Yes, they're all in the room together on a sunny August afternoon and this is a wonderful, well-rounded track that I really, really enjoyed and fans of the film are sure to eat up. Before the film, there is a twenty minute audio introduction from the three played against still photographs from the film and Crowe shot. This introduction is quite nice and sets the tone of the track. Crowe does much of the talking in the introduction, while Cusack and Skye have remarks here and there, but they mostly giggle and ask questions. But the two talk about them getting involved in the project and their own origins with the movie while Crowe recalls their first meeting. Crowe also discusses the origin of the film and how he was inspired and what he wanted in it. From a Southern man who bugs Crowe with his love of kickboxing, advice from the hearty James L. Brooks and what Crowe wanted to tell in the story. Crowe also references his other films as well. And that's just the introduction. Once we get into the actual film, everyone opens up. Cusack talks about creating the character of Lloyd, Ione shares a lot of her thoughts about the film itself and Diane and Crowe... a whole lot of stories, his thoughts and just a lot of great stuff about making the movie. Everyone here is rather insightful as when it comes to why they wanted to make the film, the themes of the story, working and characters. There's a lot of information to absorb in this track and a lot of fun production stories are told throughout, which actually made me feel not only more knowledgeable about this fine film, but like I was actually there during the production. I can go on and on... but I won't and I'll save most of the good stuff. I really loved this track as there is a sense of sweetness all throughout, just like the movie and it's really one of the best and most endearing I've heard in a long while. It really doesn't get any better than this. I thought Crowe was going to dominate the track and Skye and Cusack would just chime in here and there, but everyone is pretty much equal, which is a great thing. When actors do some commentaries, they usually (not always, but usually) don't have much to say, but here... Skye and Cusack offer a lot and that made me really happy (this track ranks as one of the best I've heard as far as actors go). There are no real pauses or dull moments either. I look forward to future tracks from Crowe, namely the upcoming special edition of "Jerry Maguire" and hopefully for "Vanilla Sky"... and if Warner ever re-releases "Singles." Also, before the main menu, there's a disclaimer about the commentary, a la Disney releases. Even if there is harmless material in tracks, are more studios going to use this in the future to protect themselves?

Next up, we have a bunch of all sorts of scenes and all of them are in rather good quality anamorphic widescreen (yes!) and total nearly fifty minutes (some of the footage comes out in black and white). Weehee! The scenes are broken up into three sections and each have their scene numbers. First, we have five Alternate Scenes. These scenes are scenes just like in the actual film, but the dialogue or how it's done is mostly bit different. After watching these (including two different versions of the boom box scene), it's clear that what is in the final film is a bit better. Crowe was supposed to do commentary on the alternate scenes, but I could not find that so I'm assuming it was left off the disc. There are ten Deleted Scenes which add up to a little over thirteen minutes. We can see why they were cut. They're not terrible, but they would ruin the flow of the film and perhaps some ideals a little. They're fun to watch, and one has a cameo from Homer Simpsons himself, Dan Castellana (I'm pretty sure that's him...). Finally there are thirteen Extended Scenes. Yes, these are scenes from the movie but their original cuts... new footage has been added back in to flesh them out a bit. Personally, they're nice to watch and add some little things to the scenes, but the edits in the film are fine since what's here doesn't always add much more to everything. Very cool additions here.

There's an EPK Featurette that lasts nearly seven minutes and has behind the scenes footage and clips from the film, plus interviews with Skye, Cusack, Mahoney and Crowe. Very fluffy... in addition to that marketing, there's two Theatrical Trailers, each in anamorphic widescreen. Finally, there are eight full frame TV Spots. Also is a brief Photo Gallery with photos taken by Cameron Crowe himself.

 

Is Cameron Crowe's directorial debut, "Say Anything...", his best film? For me, that's really hard to say... it's sort of like picking which of your children is the best (okay, maybe I shouldn't make that analogy since I have no kids and I'm not even married). I love all of Crowe's work. Each of his films are rather different, but in the end, it's his heart and loving touches to them and universal themes that bind them all. If you've never seen "Say Anything..." this is a must purchase. Considering you'll be able to pick this one up for a rather low price, not to mention the good presentation and fine supplements, this is truly worth owning. Again, I'm really happy to have such a great film in my DVD collection. Enjoy!