Follow TV Tropes


Film / Say Anything...

Go To

"I am looking for a dare to be great situation."
Lloyd Dobler

Say Anything... is a 1989 High School Romantic Comedy film starring John Cusack and Ione Skye. It was the directorial debut of Cameron Crowe, who also wrote the screenplay.

Lloyd Dobler (Cusack) is an unambitious C student who pursues valedictorian Diane Court (Skye) after graduation. They fall in love, but unfortunately, Mr. Court (John Mahoney) doesn't approve of having this slacker in his perfect daughter's life.

AFI named this as one of the Top 100 romantic movies of the last hundred years, and Roger Ebert considered it the greatest romantic movie made since 1980. There's a well-known scene from this film where Lloyd holds a boombox playing Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" over his head. Contrary to what you may have heard, this does not win her back, but that scene has become almost iconic. Also, there's some stuff about the IRS investigating Mr. Court for embezzlement.

Lili Taylor is Corey, Lloyd's best friend. Joan Cusack, John Cusack's sister, plays...Lloyd's sister Constance. Bebe Neuwirth appears briefly as Lloyd's teacher, who shows up at the graduation party to give him some advice. Jeremy Piven pops up briefly as another member of Lloyd's graduating class. Loren Dean is Corey's awful ex-boyfriend Joe. Lois Chiles is in one scene as Diane's mom.

Not to be confused with the emo band of the same name.

This film provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Corey being hung up over the undeserving Joe is a notable plot point early on, but it never really gets resolved.
  • Auto Erotica: Lloyd and Diane consummate their relationship in the back seat of Lloyd's car. Lloyd is more nervous than Diane is.
  • Balcony Wooing Scene: Trope Codifier of its own variant which has gone on to become a Stock Shout-Out; see the lead paragraph for details.
  • Because I'm Good At It: This how Lloyd explains to Jim Court why he belongs with Diane.
    Lloyd: What I really want to do with my life - what I want to do for a living - is I want to be with your daughter. I'm good at it.
  • Boyfriend-Blocking Dad: Jim is hyper-focused on Diane's future and her onwards and upwards academic career, and he doesn't want her dating a kickboxer with limited ambition.
  • Brainy Brunette: Diane. She is the Uber-brain who has been so successful in high school that she has earned a scholarship to study in England. However she is afraid that she has missed out on a social life.
  • Brick Joke: Diane's fear of flying comes back in the end of the film.
  • Broken Pedestal: Diane learns some unpleasant truths about her father.
  • Call-Back: The pen.
    • Also, the boombox scene. The song Lloyd plays is the same one that was on the radio when they became lovers.
    • There's a Call-Back to the Title Drop near the end. The first time the title is dropped is when Mr. Court says that Diane can say anything to him, and she proceeds to tell him that she and Lloyd had sex. She refers to this at the climax, when she's found out that her father is guilty.
    Diane: I know I can say anything to you. You're a liar and a thief.
  • The Cameo: Chynna Phillips (daughter of John and Michelle Phillips, later member of Wilson Phillips) plays Mimi, Joe's girlfriend.
  • Cannot Tell a Joke: Diane tries to insert one in her valedictorian speech, and it falls completely flat.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Kickboxing star Don "The Dragon" Wilson is an idol of Lloyd, yet he plays Lloyd's sparring partner at the karate gym. (Although, he could possibly be playing himself since kickboxing was not a very noteworthy sport at the time.)
  • Censorship by Spelling: When Lloyd and his sister Constance get into an argument in front of his young nephew Jason (Constance wants Lloyd to act like Jason's uncle and not just someone to have fun with, while Lloyd wishes Constance was as fun as she used to be):
    Lloyd: I mean, I'm sorry that T-I-M left you. But I am not T-I-M!
  • Class Princess: Peerless Love Interest and valedictorian Diane is viewed as aloof by her classmates due to her academic focus, but once Lloyd dares to approach her and invite her to a party, she gets along well with classmates from various cliques and social classes despite being out of her depth.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Mr. Court.
  • Creator Cameo: Polly Platt, one of the producers, plays Corey's mother, who tells her, "Don't. Talk. to Joe."
  • Credit Card Destruction: The first sign of Mr. Court's impending arrest for fraud is when he tries to buy Diane a gift and the store clerk apologetically informs him that she has to destroy his card.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Lloyd's detailed explanation of what he doesn't want in a career.
    Lloyd: I don't want to buy anything, sell anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to buy anything sold or processed, or sell anything bought or processed, or process anything bought or sold... or processed."
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: Corey picks up on this immediately when meeting Lloyd, after he had sex with Diane.
    Corey: Look at his face, he did the deed!
  • Driven to Suicide: Discussed, as this is part of Corey's Back Story with Joe:
    Corey: I wrote 63 songs this year; they're all about Joe, and I'm going to play every single one of them tonight.
    Rebecca: I just saw Joe. He's here.
    Corey: (Beat) Well, you don't have to get dramatic about it.
    D.C.: You did try to kill yourself over the guy.
    Rebecca: What was it like, Corey? I've always wanted to know.
    D.C.: She explained it all on Wake Up Seattle - where were you?
  • Establishing Character Moment: see above.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Discussed at the party:
    Sheila: I know we were ultra-competitive this year, but I just want to say if it wasn't for "Diane Court woe", I probably wouldn't have gotten into Cornell, 'cause you made me study twice as hard. So thanks.
    Diane: You did the same for me.
    Sheila: I did?
  • Gray Rain of Depression: It's pouring rain outside when Lloyd, in a phone booth (1989!) makes a despairing call to his sister telling her that Diane broke up with him.
  • Intelligence Equals Isolation: Diane is valedictorian of her high school but knows almost no one, she actually ends up meeting people for the first time and becoming friends at the Wild Teen Party after graduation. It's explained she was actually a prodigy taking college courses, so she literally was isolated from most of her classmates.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service:
    • A brief and innocuous meeting from tax agents one night gradually increases and increases until eventually Mr. Court is reduced to sitting in the bathtub on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
    • Downplayed with Diane's meeting with the IRS agent (played by Philip Baker Hall), who is blunt but still sympathetic of her situation.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Diane wins the Reed Fellowship early on, so she'll be studying in England in the fall. Sheila, who was competing with Diane academically all through high school, gets into Cornell, and at the party, she credits Diane for motivating her to study enough so she'd get in. Averted, of course, with Lloyd, who won't even make an appointment for junior college.
  • Lucky Charms Title: The title is specifically Say Anything..., with the trailing ellipsis.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Rare Male Example in Lloyd Dobler.
  • Meaningful Name: The film's called Say Anything because Diane's dad insists that she tell him everything. It adds to the Dramatic Irony when you realize at the film's end how he wasn't completely honest with his daughter.
  • Military Brat: Lloyd. It seems his father is stationed in Germany.
  • Missing Mom/Disappeared Dad: Lloyd's parents are spending time in Germany, and are only mentioned in passing. Lloyd doesn't even refer to his father as "dad". The one time he mentions him, Lloyd calls his father "The Colonel".
    • Lloyd's sister's ex, identified only as "T, I, M", is a Disappeared Dad to Lloyd's nephew. (To such an extent that he's also The Ghost.)
    • Also, Diane's mom, after the divorce. She appears in one scene.
  • Mood Whiplash: One scene starts out with Jim pretty happy, and getting flirted with by the sales clerk... until she runs his credit card and tells him that all his accounts are frozen and that she has to destroy the card. We cut to Jim having a breakdown in his bathroom.
  • Motor Mouth: Lloyd, when nervous. Which, given the nature of the film, is basically all the time (Corey calls it "that nervous talking thing").
  • Nice Guy: Lloyd. He spends all night driving some drunk kid home while said drunk kid tries to remember where his house is.
  • Nobody Thinks It Will Work: Trope Namer, said at the end, when Diane and Lloyd have finally cast caution aside and are flying off to England together.
    Diane: Nobody thought we'd do this. Nobody thinks it will work, do they?
    Lloyd: No. You just described every great success story.
  • No Indoor Voice: Jason, Lloyd's nephew, is like this (to be fair, he's only five years old).
    Constance: I just washed this shirt, didn't I?
    Jason: YEAH!
    Constance: Please, not in my ear, not in my ear!
  • Obsession Song: Corey's songs about Joe. The content of the songs is not quite evidence that they're obsessive, but the fact that she wrote more than five dozen of them is hard to get around.
    Corey: I wrote 63 songs this year; they're all about Joe, and I'm going to play every single one of them tonight.
  • One of the Boys: Somewhat inverted. Lloyd has a couple of male acquaintances but his primary friendships/ relationships are with women.
  • Opposites Attract: Golden girl Diane and slacker Lloyd? Ha!
    Sheila: Did you really come here with Lloyd Dobler? (Diane nods) How did that happen?
  • Peerless Love Interest: Diane Court. Since she's beautiful and the valedictorian, everyone assumes that she's completely unapproachable. When Lloyd Dobler asks her out and she accepts, everyone is astonished—not least of all Diane (who at first seems to regret the idea) and Lloyd too for that matter.
    Mike Cameron: I don't know you very well, you know, but I wanted to ask you... how'd you get Diane Court to go out with you?
    Lloyd Dobler: I called her up.
    Mike Cameron: But how come it worked? I mean, like, what are you?
    Lloyd Dobler: I'm Lloyd Dobler.
    Mike Cameron: This is great! This gives me hope! Thanks!
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic: Lloyd can be a Motor Mouth and a lot of the words he uses and poetry in putting them together belies the idea he is an uneducated slacker. Cusack's delivery helps sell the idea he is more rambling rather than being carefully put together.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The IRS agent is very sympathetic toward Diane, understanding how difficult it is to find out that one's father is a criminal, but he is still going to do his job.
  • Redemption in the Rain
  • The Runt at the End: Lloyd is hanging out at the gas station with all the other losers who hang out at the gas station. There's a pan down four young men as they give Lloyd variations on the same bit of advice, namely to get another girl and forget about Diane. The line ends with the fifth young man, who is actually a boy of no more than twelve. His advice?
    "Bitches, man!"
  • Satellite Love Interest: Discussed. What Lloyd really wants to do for a living is be one for Diane, because 1) he's good at it and 2) she pretty clearly needs it. (And 3) she could probably serve as an effective breadwinner, push come to shove.) Mr. Court sees this as evidence that Lloyd isn't good enough for her.
  • Serenade Your Lover: The dominant example of the trope in public consciousness.
  • Sex Changes Everything: Discussed. After Corey and D.C. figure out Lloyd has slept with Diane, Lloyd tries to act like nothing will change between him and Diane, but Corey isn't having any of it:
    Corey: Lloyd, listen to me - everything has changed. You've had sex! No matter what you might think, nothing will ever be the same between you two. You might be 60, you might be walking down the street, and you'll talk to her about something, whatever - but what you'll really be thinking is, "We had sex."
  • Shower of Angst: Jim sits in the bathtub, fully clothed with no water running, as he tries not to have a breakdown about his impending legal problems.
  • Stalking is Love: Lloyd's pursuit of Diane, and specifically the boombox scene, can be seen as this. On the other hand, Lloyd does finally accept the end of the relationship after it fails.
  • Stealing from the Till: Diane's dad is a thief who steals from the people he's supposed to take care of.
  • Suspicious Spending: The IRS agent gives a very useful primer on how to spot it — lots of expensive-but-not-too-expensive purchases you can pay for in cash, such as fancy furniture, art, stereo equipment. The next scene highlights the fact that Diane's house has all of these things, in abundance.
    • It's also foreshadowed in the dinner scene, when Lloyd admires the jukebox, and Mr. Court remembers how he bought it from someone for nine thousand dollars.
  • Those Two Guys: Corey, D.C. and Rebecca, Lloyd's three female friends.
  • Title Drop: "You know you can say anything to me." Mr. Court to Diane, the morning after she was out all night with Lloyd, right before she confesses to losing her virginity. The irony here is that Mr. Court is keeping secrets from his daughter.
  • Uptown Girl: Fancy, rich, stylishly dressed Diane Court.
  • Virgin Vision: Lloyd's friends can tell instantly after Lloyd and Diane do the deed. Lloyd will only say "I admit nothing." (then again, the huge shit-eating grin on his face is a dead giveaway).
  • Wham Line: IRS Agent Stewart starts putting it together that Diane's dad is stealing from the people in his care. Diane talks to him privately at length about all of her father's good qualities. Stewart says he believes her, but then replies as gently as possible not to let her father's decisions affect her life...
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Corey does this to Lloyd after Diane breaks up with him:
    D.C.: Lloyd, why do you have to be like this?
    Lloyd: Because I'm a guy. I have pride.
    Corey: No, you're not a guy.
    Lloyd: I am.
    Corey: No, the world is full of guys. Be a man. Don't be a guy.