'Say Anything,' Still Full Of Guileless Affection

A look back at the seminal teen flick reveals a surprisingly deep and romantic story. This story originally aired on All Things Considered on April 13, 2014.

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WADE GOODWYN, HOST:

Twenty-five years ago, Lloyd Dobler raised a boombox over his head and changed the world of movie boyfriends forever.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN YOUR EYES")

PETER GABRIEL: (Singing) All my instincts, they return...

GOODWYN: Linda Holmes, of our pop culture blog "Monkey See," was a teenager when she first saw the film "Say Anything..." She says all these years later, she has a new appreciation of it.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Lloyd Dobler is played by John Cusack. He's the 19-year-old at the center of Cameron Crowe's 1989 story about a boy, a girl, and her father. The girl is Diane; brilliant, beautiful and shy. Her protective father is very flawed. When her dad persuades Diane to break up with Lloyd, he goes to her house and plays that Peter Gabriel song in the driveway toward her window, hoping she'll reconsider.

Crowe has deep empathy for the uncertainty that comes with the end of high school. Doubt is everywhere. When a friend warns him about getting hurt in this relationship, Lloyd is undeterred. I want to get hurt! he enthuses.

Crowe wrote other rash, restless dreamers in films like "Jerry Maguire" and "Almost Famous," but Lloyd is his best work. Lloyd has doubt but no fear. He is as determined in the arenas of love and happiness as other movie heroes are in the arenas of sports and competition. He has no game, really. He courts Diane by wrapping her in his transparent, guileless affection.

In 1989, John Hughes had finished a run of films about high school in which the fantasy was that someone unattainable, someone rich, popular or rebellious, might notice you. Crowe presented a different fantasy - that a very good person might fall in love with you. When I first saw "Say Anything...," I was 18. I'm sure that boombox scene seemed like the most romantic idea a movie had ever had. Watching it 25 years later, the most romantic scene for me now is near the end. It's when we learn that Lloyd has helped Diane write and rewrite a very difficult letter to her father.

It turns out Lloyd and Diana didn't just kiss or drive off in a convertible. They did these difficult, real things together. Showboating is easy. Partnership is hard. Lloyd is a partner, not just a boyfriend - different even if he doesn't know why. At one point, a guy asks him how he got Diane to go out with him. How come it worked? the guy asks. What are you? And he says, I'm Lloyd Dobler.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN YOUR EYES")

GABRIEL: (Singing) In your eyes...

GOODWYN: Linda Holmes writes and edits NPR's entertainment blog "Monkey See." Her appreciation of "Say Anything..." first aired on All Things Considered earlier this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN YOUR EYES")

GABRIEL: In your eyes, the light, the heat. In your eyes, I am complete. In your eyes, I see the doorway to a thousand churches. In your eyes, the resolution, in your eyes, of all the fruitless searches...

GOODWYN: This is NPR News.

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