Thursday, February 25, 2016

Less Than Zero (1987) ***

Instead of all those school assemblies telling kids to “Just Say No To Drugs,” every teenager should just be required to watch “Less Than Zero.” No one wants to use drugs after watching this movie!

Loosely based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, “Less Than Zero” is a tale of three high-school friends whose lives diverge after graduation. Clay (Andrew McCarthy), Blair (Jami Gertz), and Julian (Robert Downey, Jr.) are spoiled, rich kids from L.A. For high school graduation, Julian's dad gives him the money to start a music production company, an opportunity that he promptly blows. Blair skips out on college to continue her modeling career. Only Clay goes off to school. He returns for Christmas break to find his old friends with cocaine habits, and Julian in debt to a drug dealer. Blair begs Clay to save Julian from his downward spiral of drug and alcohol binges, but saving Julian from himself proves a daunting task.

There really isn't that much plot to describe in this film. It's a pretty basic story about drugs ruining someone's life, and the film doesn't delve much into motivations or backstory. There are a few things that make “Less Than Zero” memorable:
  1. An awesome soundtrack including the Bangles' kickass cover of Simon and Garfunkel's “A Hazy Shade of Winter”
  2. Gorgeous, noir cinematography
  3. Steamy sex scenes with Jami Gertz
  4. Finally, Robert Downey, Jr.'s powerfully ugly portrayal of a drug addict. Watching Julian circle the drain is horrifying and mesmerizing.
“Less Than Zero” feels really intense while you are watching it, but afterward there is a certain letdown when you realize the story didn't really mean all that much. The film is also marred by the tacked-on final scene, which was reportedly forced on the director by the studio. The movie is worth watching, but like its characters, it is more style than substance.

3 stars out of 5

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