Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Less Than Zero (1987)

I Netflixed Less Than Zero because I recently realized I haven’t seen any pre- Alley McBeal Robert Downey Jr. performances. I enjoy him so much these days, I thought I’d watch the movie that people claim garnered him his first critical acclaim.

This movie is an eighties movie. The clothes, the set decor, the MTV aesthetic, it’s hard to see the story through the heavy curtain of shoulder pads and television screens. So many television screens! Each party the characters attend (and they attend plenty) has televisions as part of the ambiance: a wall of TVs, a tower of TVs, a Christmas themed snowy mountain of TVs. There isn’t any theme or symbolism behind the TVs, it’s just a floating motif that means nothing.

Apart from the utter 80s-ness of it all, the first two thirds of this movie are a music video. Parties, coke, flashing lights and loud music. Not much story, not much drama. Robert Downey Jr. is good when he gets to act rather than just hang around looking sad and junkie-esque.

The last third of this movie changes tones so drastically, it’s difficult to judge it as part of the same film. But the last third grabbed me. For the first time, the relationship between Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Julian, and Andrew McCarthy’s character, Clay, seemed like a relationship. Consequently, it’s also the first time Clay seems to be anything other than a boring, preppy malcontent. Their relationship sold the end of this film and gave me something to care about.
The girl, played by Jami Gertz, is unnecessary beginning to end. This story could have been something great had the bromance been front and center as opposed to the uninteresting and unrealistic love triangle.

My final thought? I’m glad I saw it but I doubt I’ll ever watch it again.

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