Thursday, August 28, 2008

Less Than Zero

Less Than Zero is a highly regarded "let's feel bad for the rich kids" drug film from 1987 starring Robert Downey Jr., Jami Gertz, Andrew McCarthy, and James Spader. It's based on a book by Bret Easton Ellis and from what I gather, the movie was vastly different from the book. Isn't that always the way? The movie is about three friends and their personal journies into adulthood when one of them is on a downward spiral of drug use and prostitution.
I haven't read the book, but in the film, there's nothing remotely likeable about the characters so, really, you don't care about them when their lives start falling apart and you feel no sympathy for the one who's trying to keep them together and alive. While there are some good films out there about the poor little rich kid, there's nothing about the characters to like so it feels like a marathon session of whinging and the throwing away of all opportunities.
I liked the lighting and the colour scheme, but they weren't very careful about framing out shadows and crew members. Bad camera work.
McCarthy and Gertz easily gave the worst performances of their careers. Stiff, nervous, and over the top. I have to imagine that Jami Gertz did a lot of stage work before this film and that would explain why she was shouting most of her lines. That and she was good in The Lost Boys and the Gilda Radner movie.
I'll be honest, I only watched this because I hadn't seen it before and it starred Downey and Spader. Like anyone who grew up with certain 80s films, I do have a soft soft for a few members of the Brat Pack, but I never considered Downey one of Them. He's got a magic about him that he's managed to maintain through all of his legal and moral troubles. He's survived himself so far and I really, sincerely hope he continues to do so. He's amazingly talented and in spite of poor direction, stiff co-stars, and a poor script, he is amazing in this film.
James Spader is almost always good and is even better when he plays smarmy, as he does here. He was relaxed and natural.
Overall: I'm glad I watched it, but I was kind of bored. You want to see a powerful film about addiction in all of its forms, watch Requiem for a Dream. Ellen Burstyn alone was heart-wrenchingly good.

1 comment:

Marvin the Martian said...

I remember when Less Than Zero came out. I was busy with school so I didn't care either. Besides, I like happy films, or at least films with a vaguely positive resolution. Like "Top Hat" or "Swing Time", lol! Life is sad enough without being confronted with it in film too. There has to be something likable about a character or a plot to make me watch it. Like, "Saving Private Ryan." Gut-wrenching film, but the characters are reasonably well-drawn and they move with a purpose.