Less Than Zero is a 1987 film based on the book of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis, starring Andrew McCarthy as Clay, Jami Gertz as Blair, Robert Downey Jr. as Julian and James Spader as Rip, Julian's drug dealer.
The film was noted for taking extensive liberties with the plot of the novel. In a curiously Post Modern touch, the film adaptation actually exists within the universe of the Less Than Zero book: the opening of the book's sequel, Imperial Bedrooms, discusses the adaptation at length.
This film contains examples of:
- Adaptational Badass: In the film, Clay does everything in his power to help both Blair and Julian from spiraling into drug addiction, especially the latter.
- Adaptational Heroism: Clay was a lot less noble and straight-arrow like how he is in the film.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: In the book, all the lead characters are blond(e)s. Not so here.
- Adapted Out: Given the many changes from the book, many characters were taken out — Trent, the 12-year-old Sex Slave, and Finn (although Rip takes his place).
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Rip comes off as a good old friend until he makes Julian sell his body to pay back the money he owes Rip.
- Bittersweet Ending: Julian dies from an overdose and it's unknown if Rip and Bill ever got some kind of comeuppance for what they made Julian do. Blair has quit taking heroin; she and Clay are a couple again and are headed to school together.
- Bookends: The picture of Clay, Blair, and Julian together after their high school graduation.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Subverted. Julian tries to call out his father for not helping him. However, given Julian's drug habit and constant lies, it's not surprising that his father cut him off. And given some of their dialogue, his father did try to help him, but Julian took advantage of his trust.
- Canon Foreigner: Bill, Rip's main muscle, is introduced for the film only.
- Chick Magnet: Downplayed with Clay. It's not given a lot of attention, but besides Blair, he got a surprise kiss from a girl at a party early in the movie and was dancing with another girl at a different party.
- Death by Adaptation: Julian is alive in the book, but dies of an overdose in the film.
- Drugs Are Bad: Only in the movie, presumably due to Executive Meddling.
- The Film of the Book: The film version of the 1985's book of the same name.
- Interrupted Intimacy:
- Implied when Blair walks in her father's house and his girlfriend(?) steps out with her clothes in disarray and slightly breathless.
- Towards the end of the film, Clay walks in on a naked and drugged out Julian about to give another man a blowjob.
- Making Love in All the Wrong Places: The second time Clay and Blair have sex, they are on the outside porch at his parent's house.
- Missing Mom: Julian's mother died when he was 5-years-old.
- No Bisexuals: Clay's bisexuality is never mentioned in the movie.
- Precision F-Strike: A given since it's an R-rated movie and most of the f-bombs come from Julian.
- Promoted to Love Interest: Zig-Zagged. In the book, it's stated that Blair is Clay's ex-girlfriend, and they break up in the movie because Blair cheated on him with Julian. But, they get back together.
- Sex for Solace: Both Julian and Blair explain that they had sex because they needed each other.
- Sex Slave: Rip forces Julian to perform sexual acts for men to pay back the money Julian owes him.
- Time Skip: A 6 month one after Julian, Blair, and Clay graduate high school.
- Vomit Discretion Shot: While it's not shown graphically, Julian vomits a whole night.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: A jarring case, but the fates of Rip and Bill are left a mystery.
- Would Hit a Girl: Neither Rip nor Bill have a problem with roughing up Blair.