It is a truth universally acknowledged that a romantic comedy in possession of a good nature will be hated by teen boys as if it were made of showering and the plague.
Despite my many awards for my dashing -- dare I say, heroic -- actions in the line of criticism, I'm no exception.
Ask me about anything else from the '80s on, I'm gold, be it about the Barbarian Invasion or the action flicks of Wilford Brimley.
But movies about feelings?
And having them?
That's a blind spot. And that's how I've never seen what to many is an all-time classic: 1989's Say Anything.
John Cusack probably doesn't have a chance with smart girl Ione Skye, but he talks her into a date anyway. Their summer thing is threatened by two forces: Skye's upcoming fellowship in England, and protective father John Mahoney, who doubts Cusack is good enough for his driven daughter.
That relationship between Skye and Mahoney gets just as much attention as the one between her and Cusack. I shudder to think what kind of Say Anything fanfiction exists in the internet's smutty margins.
Sometimes I wish we'd go back to the days when we all had to be ashamed of ourselves. You know who you are.
That father-daughter relationship is one of the biggest arrows in the movie's quiver. Writer/director Cameron Crowe handles it with the same simple realism he applies to the parties, post-high school meandering, and teen romance.
It's an unusual thread for the teen rom-com genre, which under normal circumstances would feature Mahoney as an ex-curler who challenges Cusack to a match for the right to date Skye, only to see Mahoney drop a rock through the icy lake where they're competing. Cusack would go on to save him, securing Mahoney's favor, and then the family dog learns how to tapdance.
Say Anything occasionally hits "goofy," but it never stretches for the "wacky" that poisons these things. Crowe tosses off convincing details like red cups at a kegger.
Meanwhile, the cast is a match for the material. Cusack nails nervous but goodhearted, Skye's ambitious without being offputting, and Mahoney's sympathetic even when he's trying to shut down Cusack's Northwestern game harder than the refs in Super Bowl XL, who I correctly hold responsible for every drop of oil being spilled into the Gulf.
The outcome of it all is something familiar yet unpredictable, affecting without being artificial. For some reason we all love the '80s right now, but Say Anything holds up without needing a helping hand of nostalgia.
* Contact Ed Robertson at email@example.com.