Genre: Romantic Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.
Release Date: April 14th, 1989 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Cameron Crowe Actors: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney, Lili Taylor, Amy Brooks, Pamela Segall, Jason Gould, Loren Dean, Bebe Neuwirth, Eric Stoltz, Joan Cusack
hat’s a date?” Despite not really having been on a date with Diane Court (Ione Skye), lovesick, underachieving, 19-year-old Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) is already planning a second outing with his dream girl. Good friend Corey Flood (Lili Taylor) doesn’t want to see the nice guy get hurt, but Lloyd is desperate – and dogged. He’s up for the challenge.
At their Lakewood High School graduation in Seattle, overachiever Diane gives a speech, somewhat awkwardly, after which Lloyd embarrassingly sneaks up next to her for a covert picture. While Diane receives generous gifts from her father (John Mahoney) and learns that she’s won a prestigious fellowship in England, Lloyd plays with his nephew and argues with his sister (Joan Cusack) and works up the courage to ask Diane to a party that evening. Unexpectedly, she agrees, setting up a series of lightly humiliating mishaps that highlight the unlikeliness of Diane ever being with a guy like Lloyd.
Using a continual soundtrack to narrate the characters’ actions (what would become a signature component of writer/director Cameron Crowe’s storytelling), the film takes its time developing personas and scenarios, meandering through a wild night of partying (featuring some unusually responsible drinking protocols) and pervasive opinions about Lloyd being unable to measure up to Diane. Yet the length isn’t overbearing and the pacing doesn’t feel off. Everyone seems to think she’s just too good for him – and with that amount of negative reinforcement, he’s bound to believe it – despite the fact that her scholarly potential doesn’t outweigh his own practical career possibilities.
“I feel like I fit in for the first time.” As Diane socializes in a new way, coming out of her shell, Dobler wrestles with angst and ennui surrounding his future – something peers and adults tend to interrogate him about constantly (like in “The Graduate”). There’s also an undeniable casualness and realism surrounding the couple as their relationship deepens, embracing lighthearted, comical misadventures. It’s romantic, though tinged with adolescent gawkiness and an earnest pragmatism, while also subtly plagued by their time limit; at some point, she’s going to pursue a career, and he’ll be left floundering. The sweetness, however, is quite amusing, not only with Lloyd and Diane, but also between Diane and her father, who share a heartening trust and closeness.
As with any significant, vernal romance, heartbreak must arise to make their young love more meaningful. It certainly helps that Cusack and Skye are so convincing in their roles; they feel thoroughly genuine during moments of tenderness and grief, aided spectacularly by the script, which mixes humor with a natural, candid style (it definitely possesses a flavor comparable to the works of John Hughes). And Mahoney is impressive, too; it’s rare to see such a sympathetic – and then complicated – father figure in a teen love story. Even though there are some unexpected leaps in the plot, the emotional genuineness wins out – and the closing shot is superb.
– Mike Massie