Friday, September 11, 2015

one more would be nice

The thing is, Say Anything, despite what I may have said the last two days, is romantic. In fact, while one could find fault in the immortalization of the boombox scene--because Diane just doesn't respond, so Lloyd's action is a little pointless--but there's a good reason it is taken as an image of romance. While love needs reciprocation, romance doesn't. Romance is like the seeking of reciprocation, but the gesture doesn't lose power simply because the response is limited or absent.

(Quick aside: I only just realized that the guy singing at graduation is Joe. But, no reaction shot from Corey? Seems like something's missing.)

Lloyd's gesture, standing there with the boombox over his head, aside perhaps from a Mosaic allusion, is powerful because it not only has no guarantee of success but also actually has no success. Lloyd's romantic notions have already lost the fight but he stands there anyway, playing the song. And, whether it works or not on Diane, it works on us. We're there with Lloyd and whether or not he should move on, we just don't want him to. He'd probably be better off, but we don't care. We're with this seemingly aimless guy because we romanticize him.

Seriously, we could take his career spiel at dinner as him having no goals, but really he knows exactly what he wants, it just doesn't fall in line with all the societal bullshit that everyone else wants. He's the kind of movie hero we love, resolute in his aimlessness, like we wish we could be. I mean, make a living hitting and kicking stuff, damn the office gig or the retail job. Hell yeah.

Like, just now, Lloyd rambles his way into a date with Diane and I'm envious. He's almost as Markward as Mike (Jon Favreau) in Swingers, but it works for him because, as Saer put it when the movie was on last night, his "gooberness" works some of the time. I get that. The threshold between goober and cute is a dangerous one.

(Like, why does Lloyd keep a box of Bavarian pretzels in his car? That's just weird.)

Lloyd walks that line through the entire movie. But, the movie smartly keeps us right there with him until the third act (when we spend more time with Diane).

Meanwhile, the film rather casually grounds all of this in Corey (Lili Taylor), who is a much stronger presence here than her limited screentime. I mean, she isn't just obsessing about her ex, she tried to kill herself after their thing ended. The movie almost glosses over this, but there's enough of a sense of it along the way that we see all the stages of the (cinematic) romantic relationship on display even before Lloyd and Diane break up. It's not just 65 songs, it's a general sense of pain, a malaise that rides alongside romantic attraction. Want something good, sure, but risk the bad. Like's Diane's convergence theory.

(Something about the boombox scene has been bugging me. Diane doesn't live by a park, but Lloyd's car is in a park for that scene. Just now, as they're walking out of the 7-11 (the broken glass scene), you can see the park is there by the 7-11. Her house is within walking distance, but the actual location... her house is between other houses, and when Lloyd is out in the middle of the street after dropping her off, you can see houses across the street. The park is at best at the end of the next block, across the street. At least 50 yards. He should have parked his car closer.

Or maybe he's just been living with his sister too long. He's got a redline on the volume he's going for with the boombox just like that redline on the stereo at home.)

Maybe it's the presence of Eric Stoltz (here as Vahlere who throws the party), but I find myself comparing Diane Court to Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson) from Some Kind of Wonderful. Both rich(-ish), but very different otherwise. Diane is the valedictorian; she's smart girl who just happens to also be attractive, an unusual case for film. Amanda is popular but not particularly smart, more of a stereotype. In context of the films, though, Diane and Amanda serve the same sort of role--the presumably unattainable that our hero is going to go for and we get to root for him. Unlike Some Kind of Wonderful with Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), though, Say Anything never positions Lloyd with Corey as potential love interests. In fact, because D.C. is in every one of Corey's scenes (aside from that one scene with Joe by the refrigerator full of Diet Coke), Lloyd and Corey are never even alone together. The closest they come to that is when he's monologuing into a tape recorder after he and Diane breakup. His monologue is framed as a message for Corey. And, I find it interesting that scenes from the first two acts here could easily fit into a plot more like Some Kind of Wonderful if Corey had more screen time and the third act was different...

But, again with the universal.

Every movie is every movie. There are a string of beats to be hit, and certain beats required for certain genres, but so much is basically the same. This is romance. This is love. This is the idealized territory of film where so much of this, even the bad parts, is just... neater than it is in the real world. It's simplified to draw us in and it makes us want things that are not always so easy to get when you don't live on the big screen. I come back to the Moonstruck entry I linked yesterday, in which I argued that cinematic romance is not just about the couple onscreen but about us. "We imagine our future life as a continuation of the romance we have seen onscreen," I said. "We imagine the passion and abandon on display is something we might experience, and we want it." Passion and abandon, like Lloyd Dobler standing there with the boombox over his head. Think about it too much and you gotta realize that scene accomplishes nothing. Diane doesn't come running out of the house to find Lloyd (down the block and across the street). I mean, imagine what happens next. The movie cuts to the next scene, but in Lloyd's actual life, his arms will get tired, he won't be able to stand there forever. And, while he might have a cassette of 45 minutes to a side with that song on repeat, there will be gaps as he flips the cassette over, and that song will get old, and people in the other houses nearby will probably call the police. And, Diane still won't come outside because grand gestures don't always work.

(I don't know what that's from, but I like it.)

But, we fall for it. The grand gesture works on us. We feel Lloyd's pain, we want Diane to run to him even when we know she's the stupid one who dumped him.

(Interesting structural note: I don't have the exact times but Lloyd's call home to Constance (from the phone booth in the rain) is positioned about the same distance from the end of the film as Diane's call home to her father (from Vahlere's party) was from the beginning of the film. Mark's bit at the Gas 'n' Sip--
Hey man, I was in love once. Got hurt really bad. I never want to go through that again.

--echoes Corey earlier. Lloyd hanging out with the guys counters his hanging out with the girls at the beginning of the film.

Structurally, the film begins with Lloyd and Diane separate, brings them together for the second act, then separates them again for the third. It's a simple structure but it works.

And then Lloyd goes back to Corey and D.C. and the reverse structure breaks a little. Immediately thereafter, he calls Diane and we see that she wants to talk to him. The obstacles here are all invented...)

The obstacles are in her head. Her father's dishonesty becomes just a symbolic reality to echo that internal struggle. The useful thing there is that explicit obstacles are more easily overcome. And, for us in the audience, we can imagine that any obstacle can be overcome. In the aforementioned entry about Moonstruck (almost exactly a year ago), I ended with this:

We imagine that the passion and abandon on display is something we might experience, and we want it. And, right in that moment, we live vicariously through the characters (just as with most any film, mind you), and we have it.

But, what happens after the movie ends?

And, I don't mean for the characters. I mean for us. Reality is a letdown.

Unless we are mindful enough to appreciate what we have. Unless we are mindful enough to love and be loved by those around us, regardless of the level of cinematic passion involved.

Love is wonderful. Being loved is amazing. The key is not to seek out one love at the expense of another, to obsess about finding the one, your soulmate, when you have friends and family who love you already.

Or when you just can't figure out how to do it. There was more. It ended positively because, generally, my life was and is going well.

I miss that one kind of love. But, I've got a lot of other kinds available. And, as I already said above, life is good. And, I am happy.

Salute.

Sometimes, I feel like I'm just holding on, though. As Lloyd tells Constance, "Get in a good mood." He asks her, "How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood... and then be in a good mood?" That's what he does a lot of the time. He doesn't know where his future is going, but he's positive about it. He can't guarantee that he will be happy with Diane but he holds that boombox over his head and makes that grand gesture for the romance of it. He chooses to do something rather than wallow in his pain... Well, he wallows also. But he tries.

Constance responds: "Gee, it's easy." It's a strange line reading, not quite as sarcastic as it should be. It's not easy. But on the bigscreen, it can be.

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