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» iRewind Talk » Movies » « 80's Movies » Less Than Zero (1987) - Review

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Author Topic: Less Than Zero (1987) - Review
thenodfather
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Very loosely based on the novel by the same name by Bret Easton Ellis released in 1985 Less Than Zero follows the story of three college friend's Clay, (played by Andrew McCarthy, Pretty In Pink, St. Elmo's Fire), Blair, (played by Jami Gertz, Quicksilver, The Lost Boys), and Julian, (played by Robert Downey Jr., The Pick-Up Artist, and later Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes).
Clay and Blair were college sweethearts who Blair cheats on with Julian causing Clay to leave to get away from it all and eventually returning to see that life has gone very wrong for Julian and Blair is being dragged down with him. She tells Clay that she still loves him and they get back together. Life for Julian however goes from bad to worse who gets deeper into harder drugs. The character Rip who's Julian's Drug Dealer is played very well by James Spader who Julian becomes indebted to for drugs has to become a prostitute for Rip to help pay off what he owes him.
It was a bleak story, that just careered on a downward spiral with the characters Clay and Blair running round after Julian him trying to pull him back from the brink of destruction. If you want to see a film where a character is systematically broken down and destroyed, then this film is for you, but from what I saw there is no redeeming features in this film. If it is only loosely based then I hope that is much better, but if it is based on the book then it is just a sad tale of a life gone down the toilet.
Good things to say. The lead actor's did a great job in this film, the main four, Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, Robert Downey Jr. and James Spader all turning in great performances with Robert Downey Jr. giving one of the best of his early career. Visually the film is very much of the time, it's a very 80's film with the decor and the stylisation of it and fashion wise very much embraces the era. Apart from that, no, there's nothing else. It's quite a grim tale.

I'd give it a 2/5.


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[ 12. February 2015, 09:33: Message edited by: thenodfather ]

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thenodfather
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Anyone else see this and what do you think?
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Pittsburghgirl
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I like it enough to have bought a copy for me and one for a friend who loves Andrew and Robert. Even though it is not a pick-me-up type movie, it really typifies the 80's. The clothing, hair, music, decor, etc. that may be why I like it so much, other than excellent performances from Andrew, Jamie, Robert and James. I usually watch this once a year, but it's been quite a while now. I may need to rewatch soon. Btw, the film is ver loosely based on the book. The book has plenty of differences, but I like the movie better.
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Zombo
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I've always had an appreciation for Less Than Zero. It's almost a time capsule of the mid-80s. The novel is considerably different and, in it's own way, even bleaker.

If you ever do read the book, I'd recommend skipping the sequel.

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Nostalgic for the '80's
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"Less than Zero" is a great film, but very disturbing - and definitely showcases the "dark side" of the '80's; it's the complete opposite of more "fluffy" feel-good John Hughes comedies.

This is one of the few cases where I can say that the film was far superior to the novel. The Bret Easton Ellis book was decent, but the film was far better.

One of my favorite scenes in the film was when the Andrew McCarthy character went to that elaborate house party; the designs/architecture & background music were amazing, and really typified the late '80's to a great extent.

Though I can't relate to the more disturbing elements of the film (thankfully), I can relate to someone leaving home for an extended period of time, then going back & trying to re-connect with old friends - but being unable to because too much time has passed and you/they have changed too much in the meantime.

The soundtrack was amazing, most notably the use of The Bangles' "Hazy Shade of Winter", which really fit the scene it was placed over in the film. The Bangles version of HSOW was the first time I heard this song (back in the '80's), and only in the past several years did I realize this was originally a Simon & Garfunkel 1960's song...I still like the Bangles' version much better!

[ 19. October 2016, 13:37: Message edited by: Nostalgic for the '80's ]

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Logan 5
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quote:
"Less than Zero" is a great film, but very disturbing - and definitely showcases the "dark side" of the '80's; it's the complete opposite of more "fluffy" feel-good John Hughes comedies.
I like the movie, but feel that McCarthy as Clay was miscast. When you're performing opposite people like Downey and Spader and they're acting up a storm, you need someone at least with some gravitas, and he just can't pull it off. I say that as someone that likes McCarthy as an actor.

The film was very much seen as a flop when it came out (and was critically mauled if I recall correctly). I never thought it deserved the flack it got, even if it was flawed.

quote:
I still like the Bangles' version much better!
It does 'rock' more. Those great Paul Simon lyrics though...

"Hang on to your hopes, my friend
That's an easy thing to say
But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend... that you can build them again"

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Nostalgic for the '80's
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I agree that McCarthy is not that great of an actor, but being an '80's fan it's tough to avoid him in films, since he was in so many good ones. I think Less than Zero is a great film not because of McCarthy, but in spite of him. I agree RBJ and Spader were amazing; Jami Gertz did a good job as well.

However, the real star of LTZ was the '80's time period & CA setting, fashion, music, etc.

Yes, The Bangles' version of HSOW is much more iconic in my eyes than the S&G version, probably because I heard it first. I just re-listened to this & it's as powerful as it was back in the '80's - great music here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxrwImCJCqk

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Pyro
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This has always been a tough one for me to watch because it actually hits a little closer to home than I like to admit.
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Logan 5
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyro:
This has always been a tough one for me to watch because it actually hits a little closer to home than I like to admit.

You were an actor lacking charisma miscast in the lead role of a critically panned movie adaptation of a hit novel?!

quote:
However, the real star of LTZ was the '80's time period & CA setting, fashion, music, etc.
I think even at the time the film was both praised / criticised for its depiction of 80's excesses.

quote:
Yes, The Bangles' version of HSOW is much more iconic in my eyes than the S&G version, probably because I heard it first. I just re-listened to this & it's as powerful as it was back in the '80's - great music here
It has 80's production and is performed by a rock group - it was always going to sound better. You can actually hear S&G trying to 'rock' a little on the original - but they just couldn't cut it - too folky and not enough musicians backing them. Great cover. Love those Paul Simon lyrics. One of the greatest American lyricists of the 20th century. Maybe only Dylan did better. Contentious I know, but I'll say it!

Still have my Bangles single of Hazy on the shelf. The soundtrack was generally good. Had a really odd version of Kiss' 'Rock and Roll all Night' done by Poison.

[ 25. October 2016, 11:37: Message edited by: Logan 5 ]

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