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The new sit-com “The Goldbergs” is in many ways a tribute to the 1980s, so it’s fitting that tonight’s episode pays homage to a classic 80s film. Tonight, Adam (Sean Giambrone) tries to woo the girl he likes by standing outside her window holding a boom box over his head playing Peter Gabriel’s mega hit (probably in part because of this movie), “In Your Eyes.”

Most people can probably name the movie just from that description: Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut, “Say Anything” (1989). Crowe also wrote the screenplay, and John Cusack plays the original character with the boom box, Lloyd Dobler.

“Say Anything” follows the romance between Lloyd, a misfit with poor grades and few future prospects or ambition, and Diane Court (Ione Skye), a valedictorian student with a bright future. Lloyd pursues Diane heavily (or borderline stalks her), despite his best friends warning him that he hasn’t a chance with her because she’s a “brain.”

A little bit of “Pretty in Pink” (1986) and “Some Kind of Wonderful” (1987) infiltrates the story, but there is more with Diane’s father (John Mahoney), who doesn’t like Lloyd because he’s afraid of anything ruining his daughter’s chances for success—without considering his own capacity in that regard.

The film did relatively well in theaters and is critically adored, getting a ridiculous 98 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences also loved it, and still do. It’s lauded as one of the definitive coming-of-age romances, and Entertainment Weekly listed it as number one in their 2002 list of best modern romances.

Yet, it primarily comes down to this one very iconic scene, a scene that has practically summarized the 80s by itself, from the fashion, to the technology, to of course, the music. It’s a sweet, romantic, original scene that has since been copied and referenced—as it was when “The Goldbergs” recreated it tonight.

I’ve always been a huge John Cusack fan. “The Sure Thing” and “Better Off Dead” (both 1985) remain among my top all time favorite movies, and I admire nearly everything he’s done. I remember seeing “Say Anything” when it came out, and I recall that everyone loved it at the time.

Everyone except me, that is. I absolutely hated it.

It’s not Cusack’s fault, by any stretch. In fact, I loved him in the film, and enjoyed his part of the storyline. I also loved the interaction between him and his best friends (the exceptionally nuanced Lili Taylor, in particular). But I didn’t like the film, then or now. The main culprit is the story with Diane’s father, which just annoyed me. I remember it making me really angry, as it seemed out of nowhere, uncharacteristic, and even a little contrived. I think I also had issues with Diane, who somehow didn’t seem worth pursuing so intently.

I’m definitely a child of the 80s, and feel the 80s set the tone for today’s pop culture—yet I have serious issues with one of the decade’s most iconic films. I think people are caught up in the nostalgia of it, with perhaps a little hero worship of sorts for Cameron Crowe (I personally think “Jerry Maguire” and “Almost Famous” are overrated too).

I too get caught up, and watching the “Say Anything” trailer (watch it below), I feel lighthearted and happy, but when I watch the movie, I just get annoyed again (much the way I would get excited about previews for “Glee” but ultimately disappointed and irritated by the episodes themselves—but that’s another story).

I know everyone is entitled to differing opinions and this is certainly not the first movie—nor the last—that I hated that everyone else seemed to love. Perhaps I’m allowing the father embezzlement story, which granted, is secondary to the Lloyd-Diane story, color my judgment of the film as a whole. But I also think people allow the honestly touching and romantic boom box scene to color their perception of the whole movie.

What am I missing, readers? Is “Say Anything” really worth all the accolades? Or do you agree with me?

4 COMMENTS

  1. I watched this film for the first time not too long ago and I can barely even remember a thing about it. I just remember being disappointed because I knew how hyped and adored the movie is. I found it really phony and unrealistic. It was like contrived wish fulfilment for nerdy straight white guys. The movie just wanted you to wish you could be like John Cusack and get the girl and yada yada yada.

    Also, the boom box scene: overrated! Perhaps my expectations were too high though because it’s such an iconic scene, but when it happened in the movie I felt like it was really fleeting and not nearly as tender or sentimental as I would’ve liked, it just kind of came and went for me. “That’s it?”

    • Thanks for your reply, Jacques! Yeah, it’s difficult to see an iconic film so long after it’s been talked about and referenced (incessantly). I had the same problem with The Matrix: by the time I finally saw it, it had been spoofed and referenced constantly, so it struck me as just, “Meh.” (I know, sacrilege). It’s too bad I missed out on the initial awe of The Matrix as it should have been experienced, but such is life. Better late than never, I suppose. 🙂

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