Reviews — June 27
One could write off “Say Anything” as a melodramatic 1980s romantic comedy reduced over the years to the iconic image of a young John Cusack aiming his boombox toward yonder window like a latter-day Romeo. But it is much more than that.
Cameron Crowe’s (“Singles,” “Jerry Maguire”) directorial debut follows two Seattle teens as they navigate that awkward summer between high school graduation and the rest of their lives. Cusack plays the bumbling kickboxing fanatic Lloyd Dobler, who falls hard for class valedictorian Diane Court, played by Ione Skye.
While Lloyd hasn’t yet made plans for the future, the over-achieving Diane has a scholarship to study in England at the end of the summer. She’s out of his league not only in the realm of academics but also social class, with Diane’s father looking down on the directionless Lloyd, who despite his kind heart simply isn’t good enough for his daughter.
The film could have easily rolled out the standard rom-com cliches and schmaltzy coming-of-age nostalgia, but it manages to rise above both with an authenticity missing from far too many Hollywood films about teenagers. Cusack’s performance is brilliant, with Lloyd emerging as an everyman hero for all those who went after someone who seemed out of reach, ignoring everything telling them not to even try.
“Say Anything” (1989), directed by Cameron Crowe. Starring John Cusack, Ione Skye and John Mahoney. 100 minutes, rated PG-13.
What does an alligator have to do with Newfoundland, the island that makes up the easternmost segment of Canada?
It’s a legitimate question, and you’ll find a satisfactory answer in the opening pages of “Alligator,” an unusual and captivating novel set in Newfoundland’s largest city, St. John’s.
Lisa Moore’s first book skips back and forth among six or eight characters and several narrative styles. Whether the chapter you’re reading is in first-person or third-person, it’s all rather stream of consciousness, with one sentence following another in an order that’s more like casual thought than logic. Surprisingly, it’s neither off-putting nor confusing.
Colleen is a teenager struggling to come to terms with past loss and figure out who she wants to be. She joins a group that’s out to save the environment, but finds the members all talk and no action. So she hitchhikes alone to a remote logging site and dumps sugar into the gas tanks of the equipment in an effort to save an endangered rodent. Later, she sets out to find a man who’s trying to save alligators.
She’s seen the gator guy in a film made by her aunt, Madeleine, who pours her activism into making films. She’s made all sorts of movies, but now, in her 60s, she’s working on her opus: A piece that will bring together her feelings about the beauty of Newfoundland, the island’s history, and the people who settled there and were shepherded by a pioneering Catholic bishop.
Isobel stars in Madeline’s film. She’s the rare actress who can portray the regret and pain required by the story, because she’s lived those emotions in her own life. And she’s involved in another troubling relationship, with Valentin, a sailor who got stuck in St. John’s and started up a lively business in drugs, illegal cigarettes and coercion.
Valentin lives upstairs from Frank, a 19-year-old determined to make the most of his life. He’s honest and hardworking, and everything is going right for him, until he meets Colleen and Valentin.
There’s more to the story, much more, and the author weaves it well. I only wish she was as enamored of her native Newfoundland as Madeleine is — I’d like to learn more about the place. I guess I’ll need to read her other books for that.
“Alligator,” by Lisa Moore, 2005, Black Cat publishing.