See also: Bangles Video
Just a few days ago, I finally got around to watching "Less than Zero", a romance / morality tale about the excesses of the 80s, starring Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, Robert Downey Jr., and James Spader. Having watched "Pretty in Pink" not too long ago, I've had my fill of Andrew McCarthy / James Spader movies. I'm still having a hard time telling them apart. In "Less than Zero", though, Spader slicked his hair back (influenced, perhaps, by another 1987 film, "Wall Street") which helped me out. Thanks, James.
I enjoyed the movie more than I expected to - and perhaps "enjoyed" is a poor choice of words, given how dark the film is. Robert Downey Jr. is in a downward spiral through most of the film (insert cheap shot about art imitating life).
No small part of my enjoyment of the movie came from my enjoyment of the Bangles' "Hazy Shade of Winter" video, which now that I have seen the movie (not quite 20 years after it came out, yikes), I can finally tease apart into the constituent pieces. Most of the video is based on a party that the characters go to early in the movie, and one motif of the party is televisions as furniture. There's a portal made of televisions that McCarthy walks through in the first few seconds of the video - and that one clip seems to have been given undue importance in determining the look of the video. The Bangles then walk through a derivative structure of televisions, proceed to perform on a stage backed with televisions, and generally romp on and around televisions.
For all that, you'd think that the wall of video feed would be more integral to the plot, like some Max Headroom broadcast warfare story. Not so - it was simply a decision by the host of the party. Perhaps there was an intended ironic note that I'm missing now, or perhaps it was a self-aware statement of decadence, that experiences are transitory, so turn up the volume.
I have two gripes with the film. The first is the same complaint that I had with "Pretty in Pink"; that Andrew McCarthy doesn't strike me as a well-cast romantic lead. I wasn't a girl in the 80s, so perhaps I'm not the one to judge McCarthy's fitness for these roles. His dramatic range seems to range from a bemused smugness to a distraction that's supposed to convey concern.
Secondly, and I'm sure the original novel deserves the blame for this one - the events of this movie take place around the holidays during McCarthy's character's freshman year in college. I had a hard time connecting the high life (ahem) pictured in the movie as populated with 19 and 20 year olds. Make everybody 25 years old, and I'd have been fine with it.
Random exchange that amused me:
McCarthy: How's MIT?
Chick: It's weird... and stimulating.
As much as I like movies, I'm embarrassed by the number of "cultural imperative"s that I somehow missed out on. This is why I have NetFlix, I suppose. Without incriminating myself too much, in my near future are movies about a guy in tights, a shark, some vampires, and a more recent one set on a boat with sails. Those are four different films, but if you can think of a movie with vampires on a sailboat, with Robin Hood and sharks, let me know. I'll add it to my queue.