by Rob Boylan
We've been skewing to mostly newer films available on VOD and other streaming sites lately, but we're feeling a bit nostalgic and full of feelings this week.
Say Anything... - Cameron Crowe
If there is a more iconic image of the lovesick young man than Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and his boombox in Cameron Crowe's Say Anything, I've never seen it. It's one of those images that so becomes the film that it almost ruins the film in a weird way. It's like the house falling around Buster Keaton in Steamboat Bill, Jr. You keep waiting for it to happen, and that waiting causes you to think that whole film will be Lloyd standing there in his trench coat arms aloft as he courts the smart-beautiful-loving-rich-wonderful Diane Court and her father (the eminently watchable Ione Skye and John Mahoney, respectively), especially the first time you see it. Of course the scene is very short and not really the focal point -- and not nearly the best scene in the film. For me, that distinction goes to the "what do you want to do with your life?" scene:
Isn't that the dream? Isn't everything about this film the dream for teenage boys? In real life Diane Court is the kind of girl who would never date you. Not because she is a bitch, but because you are not as self-possessed and charming as Lloyd Dobler. It just takes a few more years to realize this fact and try and do something about it. It's almost a fantasy role reversal. Diane Courts exist and are, probably, lovely; it's Lloyd Dobler who is set in the fantasy mold, giving out false hope that maybe one big gesture of true love will whitewash all of that fumbling insecurity, all of that charmlessness and all of those zits. It works so well in its time, but hopefully it becomes nostalgia after. (Available on Netflix)
Mermaids - Richard Benjamin (and like 8 other guys Cher had fired, including Frank Oz)
When the filmmakers were putting Mermaids together, they probably thought little about it beyond that fact that it would be a Cher vehicle to put dollars in their pockets. They probably did not think that they would be getting a rare gem of an early Winona Ryder performance or that they would discover Christina Ricci in the process. It didn't put many dollars in their pockets, but ended up a rich and endearing document of the lovesick young woman during a New England school year when Kennedy was shot. Ryder plays the narrator, Charlotte Flax, a fifteen year old who is devoted to Catholicism (despite being Jewish) whose inner monologue is a game of angel-devil between God and sex with the hunky handyman, Joe (Michael Schoeffling). The film tends to get a bad wrap, but it charms with its Catholic deadpan and array of strange characters, playing out like a long episode of The Wonder Years if it were narrated by Winnie instead of Kevin.
The bad wrap comes mostly from Cher. At times, it's unfortunate that she is in the film. She is clunky and a bit of a diva (on screen and off), but she is also a gateway to more Lou, the worst painter in the world, played by Bob Hoskins in his most affable performance ever. It was jarring to realize that these family-type roles (this, Roger Rabbit) were a new style of character that Bob Hoskins was trying on after years of being a hard man in British gangster films. It still is jarring when a new-old film of his shows up on Netflix. I tend to think of him as lovable Lou or as the wounded Eddie Valiant, connections I made to him at a very young age, not as the homicidal maniac he is actually famous for. Is it true range to be able to play a London killer and a small town New England gossip? I don't know, but I like the outcome anyway. (Available on Netflix)