Friday, June 13, 2014

Then and Now

The greatest films stand the test of time, speaking to us in different ways at various life stages.  Is there a movie that was a part of your life when you were younger that you see differently now?  Like fine wine, has it improved with age or did it die in the bottle?  Has maturity brought you new insights you missed in your youth?  We want to know all about it!

Welcome to "Then and Now," a bloghop hosted by The Armchair Squid, Suze, Nicki Elson and Nancy Mock.  Tell us about a movie you loved when you were younger and have come to see differently over time - for better or for worse.
via Wikipedia
I went to see Say Anything... in the theater with friends to celebrate my 16th birthday.  The protagonist, Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), instantly became a personal hero for me.  Like me at that age, most of his close friends were girls.  He wasn't slick and cool Ferris Beuller - an ideal I never pursued and could probably never have attained anyway.  He was awkward, but kind.  He wasn't popular, exactly, but certainly well liked.  He was a fool falling in love for the first time.  I could definitely groove with that.



A great lead character and outstanding writing are usually enough for me and Say Anything... certainly ranks among my all-time favorites.  However, the ending of the film - particularly the fate of the father/adversary character - has always bothered me.  I've never been sure why.  But in pondering this bloghop, I believe I've finally figured it out.

My apologies to those of you unfamiliar with the film.  A quick synopsis:

Lloyd has just graduated from high school.  He has modest prospects and modest ambitions, apart from a big old crush on the class valedictorian, Diane Court (Ione Skye).  Diane, regretful over the fact that she doesn't know her classmates better, is charmed by his advances and agrees to a date.  They start spending more time together and become quite the item.

Diane's father, Jim (John Mahoney), is not so keen on Lloyd.   He recognizes the intellectual superstar in his daughter and wants her to pursue every opportunity, including a prestigious fellowship to study in England.  For Jim, Lloyd is a pest.

I'm okay with everything so far, until...

Jim is skimming off the top at the nursing home he runs and the IRS comes a-knockin'.  He is arrested and carted off to jail.  More importantly to our story, his integrity with his daughter plummets beyond repair and she is now free to pursue love with Lloyd, in addition to the fellowship.  The dragon is vanquished, the princess won.

As noted above, this ending has never sat very well with me.  I get it from Lloyd's perspective.  Jim's fall from grace has to be total for his daughter to lose faith in him.  Lloyd carries the day, rah rah!  But from Jim's perspective, I feel the punishment outweighs his crimes.  I don't mean the tangible crimes against society.  He deserves what he gets for stealing from the people he was supposed to protect.  I mean his crimes as Lloyd's antagonist.

Jim Court is basically a good father.  Yes, he is living vicariously through his daughter but it's not as if he's pushing her towards something she doesn't want.  He's encouraging her to fulfill her own potential.  Their relationship is a healthy one.  He treats her with love and respect.  The movie's title comes from the confrontation between father and daughter about the nature of her relationship with Lloyd.  When she confesses - a bit too gleefully for his tastes - that they'd had sex for the first time that night, he doesn't betray her trust.  Even though he's clearly upset by the revelation, he does nothing to shame her.  He's not perfect but he's definitely not the rotten parent you see in so many teen movies.  As both character and actor, he's a big part of why this movie stands apart in my mind from others of its genre.

By the end of the movie, Jim is a shattered man.  Bitter disappointment really would have been enough.

Please visit the other fine bloggers participating in Then and Now and might even consider joining us.  Just sign on to the list below:


58 comments:

  1. I'd been waiting and curious to see what you had to write about 'Jim' and I have to say that your post leaves me with more questions than answers, which sometimes is not a bad thing for a post to do.

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    1. I welcome further discussion, Suze.

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    2. Okay, so reading this again the following morning, it's not that it raised more questions as much as it was that I don't remember the details of the film well, having only seen it once and having it rank amidst the lesser Cusack films for me, personally. Probably because it was heavy on the drama and, then (and no doubt to a large extent, still now) I go for the funny stuff.

      In truth, rereading it I can see with better clarity what I more or less expected from you, which is how you the balance of your sympathy would rest less with Lloyd's character and more with Jim's. You actually do a fine job of explaining how and why that transition has come about.

      I think Lloyd is, more or less, a teen hero. He hits a lot of the right notes with his earnestness, his total lack of pretense and his light--just enough but not too much--awkwardness that endears but doesn't repel (if memory serves.)

      Jim, on the other hand, is older, less compelling generally for a young audience and says a few things that are not very nice to our hero Lloyd. At a young age, these would be the salient factors, not to mention the hypocrisy inherent in (Jim's) actions which, again for a younger audience (I think perhaps especially our latch-key generation?) are going to be interpreted in a more black and white fashion.

      Whew. I didn't realize I had as much to say in response. Though I think I'm mostly just parroting your own sentiments, for the most part.

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    3. Rest assured, I love Lloyd. He was, is and likely will always be one of my favorite characters in film. He is who he is and people love him for it. That's all I ever wanted out of life myself.

      Jim is definitely an ass to Lloyd. Mind you, I have no intention of being especially charitable towards any obvious loser date my daughter brings home. Mel, the father in Clueless, is my personal hero in that situation. Jim also makes very clear in the first phone call what impresses him in his daughter's suitors: a nice car. Lloyd definitely ain't got one. I would hope that if my daughter's lucky enough to find a Lloyd - someone who's decent and who loves and respects her - I'll be able to swallow my paternal pride and let down my guard, just a little.

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  2. Now I want to see this film again because clearly I don't remember it very well.

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  3. I saw it on video many years ago and all I remember was the ending wasn't a really happy one. Guess I'd need to watch it again.
    Thanks for hosting the blogfest!

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    1. My pleasure, Alex! Thank you for joining us and for encouraging others to do the same.

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  4. People do tend to forget how dark the movie was in places. All they remember is him standing outside, holding up that boom box!

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    1. It's a beautiful iconic image, no doubt. But there is so much more to this story.

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  5. I've never seen this film.... But I can definitely see why the ending disturbs you. You're right, the father shouldn't have been destroyed completely, only carted off to jail.

    Thanks for sharing this with us....

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    1. My pleasure, Michael! Thank you for joining us.

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  6. I first saw this a few years back on DVD. I was already in my 50's, but I'd heard so many good things about it that I had to check it out. I recall liking it, but I don't really remember the film. I guess I need to see this one again.

    Thanks for hosting.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

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    1. My pleasure, Lee! Thanks for joining us.

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  7. Oh I totally agree. That ending is out of sync w/ the rest of the movie---I think that's why this one's never been high on my list of 80s favorites even though it's got so many great moments. And you're right --- the punishment was way too cruel for a guy who was just trying to be a good dad.

    Thanks for the brilliant idea for this fest!

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    1. The story has so much going for it. The characters have much more nuance than one usually sees in the genre.

      Thank you for co-hosting, Nicki!

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  8. I am at a loss... I remember watching this, but realy don't remember it.
    I will have to go find it to reacquaint myself.

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  9. I haven't seen it in so long that I don't remember the ending. Just the boombox scene. Now that you put it that way it's way too harsh. This is a fun blogfest and thanks for hosting! I hope you have a most excellent morning Man.

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    1. Thanks, Maurice. And thanks for joining us.

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  10. I think we view these movies differently when we are young than we do when we are more experienced. We think about repercussions and relationships once we have a partner or family depending on us. As a younger person we may view the movie purely as entertainment. Haven't seen this one. . .

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    1. Absolutely true. As I said in the blurb, I do think the mark of a great film is one that holds up to varying life perspectives.

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  11. I love this movie (in particular Lily Taylor singing: Joe lies....Joe lies, and the Gas n' Sip).

    Very insightful on the father role. I'd like to think that as some time passes. she revisits her relationship with her father and they make amends. The movie does paint him as the defeated villain, and he certainly is in the wrong, but it's sad that the father-daughter relationship is totally fractured. That's why I kind of go the long path in thinking when they have some time, they could reconcile. It just doesn't quite fit in the movie narrative.

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    1. One does wonder what happened next. Maybe Mr. Crowe could make a Lloyd & Diane, 25 Years Later movie for us.

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  12. What great points. One of the problems I have with YA novels and movies directed at teens is the unrealistic and unflattering portrayals of parents.

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    1. Portraying all adults as antagonists is undoubtedly realistic for some but overall, it seems too easy.

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  13. Never saw the movie but from your description, I might have walked out of the theatre. The father's character seems way to extreme (such a good and caring father but ripping off the old folks). Doesn't compute in this brain.

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    1. It's like watching a train derail. It's awful but you can't help but watch.

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  14. Great movie--I almost chose this one but I doubt my analysis of then and now would've been as insightful as yours! That is true that the father wanted the best for his daughter. I think what makes it work a little better for me than you is that John Cusack is just so darn charming that you want them together, and the dad keeping them apart makes him enemy number one. I loved how open-ended the ending was, on the plane. Maybe the writer was trying to show the reality of life in the father's storyline? Not sure.

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    1. No, I get it from Lloyd's perspective. The dragon must be slain. But there's a further moral condemnation of the father that seems completely unnecessary. I was curious about the story's origins so I went to iMDB. Here's the skinny:

      "Producer James L. Brooks said what inspired this movie was an incident where Brooks saw a man walking with his daughter. He saw them and wondered what would happen if the father committed a crime. Those thoughts were used to create the story."

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  15. Oh, and I definitely agree with Susan's point above! Why make the parents so absent or horrible in YA and NA?

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    1. As I said in response to Susan's comment, I think for many it's just the easy choice. Any child in the world can understand difficult-to-horrible parents even if they're in a very healthy family situation themselves.

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  16. I never watch this movie so I have no reference beyond him holding a Boom Box.
    But sometime living gets in the way of life... or something like that. I guess the dad was just suppose to be the big bad wolf.
    Great review.
    I just love this blog hop !

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Also I had a great time reading all the blogs I think I miss two.
      This was so much fun.
      Thanks to You, Suze, Nicki and Nancy

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  17. I love this movie, but I've always been disturbed by the plot twist that puts Diane's father in prison. Say Anything could have been even better than it was with better writing.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I forgot to say how much I love all the songs about what a bastard Joe is.

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    2. Line by line, Cameron Crowe is a truly excellent screenwriter. Say Anything isn't nearly as tidy as his later films Jerry Maguire or Almost Famous but it is good. It's the overall story arc that has holes in it.

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  18. One of my favorites, too! The visual image of John Cusack, the music of Peter Gabriel, and old whats-her-name. Good times, good times...

    Blog on, sister.
    Cherdo

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    1. While I have a sister, I am, in fact, her brother.

      Thanks for joining us, Cherdo!

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  19. I've only seen snippets when this shows up on TV, so I know only enough to place Lloyd in context with the other classic Cusack roles. I know "Jim" much better as Frasier Crane's kindly dad. :-)

    Trivia question: Name another classic 1989 film whose official title ends in ellipsis...

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    1. Excellent little trivia question there! My guess was About Last Night... but I looked it up and that one came out in 1986 and doesn't exactly qualify as "classic." Surely, the answer you had in mind was...

      When Harry Met Sally...

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  20. Wow, it's been so long since I saw this movie that I couldn't remember anything about it other than the scene where John Cusack holds the radio up for the entire Peter Gabriel song and the fact that he had this huge crush on the smartest girl in school. I don't remember the dad at all or what I thought of his sad fate! Who played him? Now I want to see it again.

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    1. Jim Court was played by John Mahoney - as Cyg pointed out, better known as Frasier's and Niles's father on the TV series Frasier. He is one of so many distinguished alums of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre. He's a Tony winner, too.

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  21. One of my favourite films (helps to have been the right age when first seeing it) and made me a fan of John Cusack (at least for a while). I think the atypical nature of the father daughter relationship was interesting. You're right it was a bit overblown, but as a way to show a child become disillusioned about a parent it worked pretty well. I think the strength of the movie is that it captured that moment, even though the specifics are a little improbable and exaggerated.

    mood
    Moody Writing

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    1. Yes. Disillusionment in the parent-child relationship is a crucial experience for most of humanity. This particular story still feels incongruent.

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  22. Great minds think alike, eh? :) Very cool that the same movie impacted us both. Admittedly now that I am a parent, the portrayal of parents sits differently with me now than when I was young. However, I could not find sympathy for this Diane's dad or his punishment. The movie only barely touched upon the twisted relationship Diane has with her parents. In one short scene we meet her vacant and self-absorbed mother, and early in the movie she shares with Lloyd that at 13 she was forced to go to court to choose between her parents. That either parent would sit back and allow their child to be placed in that impossible situation shows to me that both had vindictive and selfish side.
    But yes, let's watch it together!!

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    1. The mother - she's more the typical teen movie parent.

      You're right in that we're spared details about the divorce and I hadn't considered your point about being forced to choose. I know that it's hard to see Jim as a good guy. He really isn't. By the end of the film, that's quite clear. The movie really is as much about the father's hypocrisy as it is about the love story.

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  23. how funny that you and nicki chose john cusack films! he always has something to say in his movies, so quirky. Serendipity comes to mind too. Say Anything also left me wanting, so off beat, but uniquely intriguing... fun fest!

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    1. Serendipity's very sweet. I've only see it once, though, and can't say I know it well.

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  24. John Cusack remains one of my favorite actors. He's versatile and very talented. I love this movie so much. It remains one of my all-time favorites, although it breaks my heart to watch Diane and her father's relationship crumble under the weight of his criminal activity.

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    1. I like a lot of Cusack's films but he's not a sure thing (too easy) for me. I like Better Off Dead and Grosse Pointe Blank. True Colors - not so much. Of course, you're not really supposed to like him in that one.

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  25. Finally getting around to visiting everyone from the blog hop. Huge thanks for organising it! I haven't seen Say Anything but you don't sound enthused by how it's held up over time so I might give it a miss anyway... :)

    Ed- Empire's 5-star 500

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    1. I wouldn't say it doesn't hold up. I still love the writing and the protagonist. The story is not perfect but it's still worth watching.

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