It was bound to happen. Grace was genetically predisposed to develop a John Cusack crush and since he’s never accused her of being a troll on social media there was nothing in the way. She locked onto him in Sixteen Candles where he barely said anything. So the next experiment was to leave the John Hughes universe and show Grace the movie that made all of us wish John Cusack was outside our window blasting our personal sex anthem from an old boombox. Would Say Anything… retain its teen-mojo?
Of course it does. Eighteen-year-old Cusack is still so fucking charming it could have been a totally wretched movie and still captivated a teenager. Additionally, it’s still quite a decent film even at a 30-year remove. Cameron Crowe’s coming-of-age rom-com isn’t especially edgy or daring, but it’s got a good heart. And it touches on some stuff that basically never goes out of style with kids Grace’s age.
Losing your virginity, and enmeshed parents who let you down.
“I don’t know about Diane,” Grace said. “I can’t tell if it’s the character or the actor, but something about her bugs me.”
“Can you put your finger on what?”
“Well … she’s actually super-relatable. She’s such a nice person. I don’t want to not like her. I don’t actually not like her—she’s just, I don’t know, a little boring.” After thinking about it for a minute, she added, “You know what was interesting? That dinner scene where she and her dad are finishing each other’s sentences and Lloyd says he’s never seen people act like that, like that close, you know?”
“Which part was interesting, that they’re like that or that his character couldn’t relate to it.”
“That they were like that. Because it is a little weird. In a way it’s sweet and in a way it’s creepy.”
Maybe we are experiencing a high enmeshment level, I don’t know, but it’s worth noting that Grace and I have yet to disagree on any of the films on the 1980s teen flick roster. The interesting thing about Say Anything… isn’t the romance. That part’s vanilla, and it’s enjoyable to watch because Cusack made Lloyd Dobler into someone we all wanted to date back then. An emotionally available straight guy? Wha? He was wall-to-wall charisma and zero pretense, and he was cute as hell. But the significant man in Diane Court’s life wasn’t Lloyd. It was her dad.
John Mahoney gave a really strong performance as Jim Court, a single dad who has managed to raise a daughter who is unwaveringly, 100% forthright with him no matter what. The relationship was so deeply trusting and kind and honest. Don’t we all wish we had that parent? Don’t we all wish we had that kid?
Actually, I did have that parent. And I think I was over 40 before I really, really understood the difference between being dishonest and having normal boundaries. But even at Grace’s age, I knew what it felt like to both crave and dread parental intimacy, and I definitely knew what went down when someone who demanded total transparency (which you happily offer) wasn’t exactly honest with you in return.
“What do you think about their relationship?” I asked her. “Creepy or cool?”
“Oh, both!” The answer was instantaneous. “I mean, ‘Hey dad, I just had sex for the first time and the first thing I thought was how I couldn’t wait to tell you all about it!’ That is weird. But also, it’s like, all they really have is each other. You have to be able to trust each other. Which is why it extra sucks when she finds out he’s lying about stealing from those people in the retirement home.”
“It extra sucks,” I said. “And what else?”
Grace thought for a minute. “It makes her realize she’s too dependent on him.”
“Do you think it’s better if people don’t keep things from each other in important relationships?”
“I guess I think it’s better if they mostly don’t? But it’s okay to have a few secrets. Unless they’re going to hurt someone.”
Grace seriously gets it about a lot of stuff. It’ll probably take a while, and maybe even having a kid of her own, for her to understand that most of us hurt people the most when we’re desperately trying to do the exact opposite.
Upshot? Some teen themes never go out of style. Grace gave extra props to Jeremy Piven and Joan Cusack and especially Lili Taylor for awesome supporting performances (now I can’t wait to pull out Grosse Pointe Blank), and said the something that has to be said about Say Anything…: That it’s a classic for a reason and that the whole movie’s worth it for the boombox scene.
Amy Glynn is not an online troll.