Heathers (1988)

Sunday, February 14, 2010 2:21 PM By Simon , In , , , , , ,

Well, since my parent and/or legal guardian is being a difficult roadblock in my campaign to see Shutter Island, I will have to settle for a quickie summation of my latest spoil from my local library.

Heathers is about Veronica, played by Winona Ryder, who is a member of an exclusive high school clique made up of three girls, all named Heather. Veronica has nothing but contempt for the group, but plays handmaiden with them anyway (roughly putting it: "It's like they're coworkers at a job, and that job's being popular and shit"). One day, she meets rebellious and mysterious new boy JD, played by Christian Slater in his for-once-appropriate Jack Nicholsan impersionation, and he leads her into a murder spree, disguising them as suicides.

We've all seen a movie influenced some way or another by Heathers, even if we've never heard of it. As the '20th High School Reunion' edition DVD boasts, "Without Heathers, there'd be no Jawbreaker, no Mean Girls, and certainly no Juno." And this proud little laserdisc box is right. Without Heathers, we'd still be drowning in John Hughes-type movies where everybody is one detention-slip away from an orgy of love and friendship. Not that there's anything wrong with John Hughes movies, but come on. It paractically created the sub-genre of 'teenagers behaving badly' pop culture.

It's not one of those eighties movies where the dialogue may seem funny at the time, but is instantely corny and dated a year later. The writer, Daniel Waters, created his own lingo and slang for his characters, not hopelessly strained Disturbing Behavior 'that's razor' bullshit, stuff that is just obnoxious and casual enough that you could maybe imagine chicks from the eighties saying it. And, underneath the obvious quote-worthy bitch lines like 'fuck me gently with a chainsaw', there's a smart, dry, sarcastic perspective in the forms of JD and Veronica, the former in his diatribes against the Heathers and the adults surrounding them, the latter in her diary entries, in which she declares her already barely disguised contempt for her friends, then, as the plot gets darker and more outrageous, her bewilderment and panic. Winona Ryder and Christian Slater own the're characters. Ryder plays Veronica's wit and weariness, and Slater is all Tyler Durden: The High School Years (ironicbecauseBradPittwasoriginallytappedfortherole) meets Randle McMurphy, going from mischevious to psychopathic with a constant underlying mystery and sociopathy that makes anything he says difficult to take at face value.

Not that it doesn't have problems. At times, it comes across as patronizing and superior, no matter how dead-on it is at the same time. Supporting performances are fine, but the director can't seem to decide who we're supposed to be sympathising with.

But the direction is almost perfect for this type of movie, and, yes, it mercilessly rips one on teen suicide, but in a way that would probably make a teenager contemplating suicide feel ridiculous for even entertaining the thought.

Overall, though, Heathers is an infinitely quote-worthy, smart, and funny cult-classic that everybody should see so that they know, no matter how shitty they think their high school are, there's always one time times worse.