It’s hard to believe that the movie Say Anything is turning 30 this year—it seems like only yesterday I was watching it for the first time in the movie theater. I say first time because I have since watched it dozens of times. And you know what? It’s still as funny, poignant and relevant as it was three decades ago.
What I Love About Say Anything
For those of you who don’t recall what the movie was about, let me refresh your memory (and for those of you who haven’t seen it, I highly recommend watching it, perhaps with your children). The storyline revolves around high school seniors Diane Court (played by Ione Skye) and Lloyd Dobler (played by John Cusack).
Diane is the class valedictorian, a beautiful and sweet high achiever who lives with her divorced father Jim, who owns an elder care residence where she also works. Diane and her father are extremely close; she feels she can “say anything” to him. Lloyd is an average student who lives with his sister and nephew and has an array of quirky friends.
Lloyd has a serious crush on Diane and, as the school year comes to an end, decides to make a bold move and ask Diane to a party. To his surprise (and perhaps hers), she agrees to go with him. Having spent much of her time in high school studying, she feels it’s her last chance to enjoy herself and get to know her classmates.
The date goes really well, and Diane falls for Lloyd, finding him considerate and kind. Jim doesn’t approve of Lloyd dating his daughter and tells her in no uncertain terms that such a underachiever cannot possibly be her match. He urges Diane to break up with him, pointing out that she is leaving soon to study in England and would have no future with him anyway.
Following her dad’s advice, she ends things with Lloyd. In one of the most iconic movie scenes ever, a devastated Lloyd stands under Diane’s bedroom window holding his boom box over his head as it blares the Peter Gabriel song In Your Eyes (I know you can totally visualize the scene).
There are so many quotable lines from this movie; one of my favorites is when Jim asks Lloyd his future plans and the young man earnestly explains,
I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought or processed.
Much to Jim’s disgust, Lloyd’s only goals seem to be to pursue kickboxing and dating Diane; “I can’t figure it all out tonight, sir, so I’m just gonna hang with your daughter.”
Meanwhile, we discover that Diane’s father has been embezzling money from his elderly clientele and is headed for jail. A distraught Diane seeks out Lloyd for comfort and they get back together. Despite knowing how much Jim dislikes him, Lloyd tries to help Diane repair her relationship with her father. At the end of the movie, Lloyd decides to go England with Diane. As the plane is about to take off, Diane says “Nobody thinks it will work, do they?” to which Lloyd replies “No. You just described every great success story.”
Parenting Lessons from Say Anything
There are so many messages and lessons in this movie that I think are important for our kids (and for us as well):
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Diane doesn’t even know who Lloyd is when he asks her out. And yet by his asking and her accepting, something beautiful begins.
Don’t judge a book by its cover. Yeah, yeah, I know what a cliché that is. But as the story unfolds we learn that: Diane is more than just her résumé and is not the stuck up studying machine her classmates think she is, Lloyd is not the dolt Jim thinks he is, and Jim is not the man Diane thought he was. People are complicated, to say the least.
Relationships are difficult. Lloyd and Diane seem like an unlikely couple, yet because they are open and respectful of one another, they are able to make it work.
It’s interesting to note that Diane’s dad uses the excuse that his illegal activities were done to provide a secure future for her. In the wake of the college admissions scandal, this sounds all too familiar; another “ends justify the means” defense.
I wish they had done a sequel to this movie. But I suspect, or maybe I just want to believe, that Diane and Lloyd end up together forever, continuing to support and root for each other as they pursue their individual dreams. Perhaps Diane helps cures cancer or becomes the first woman President while Lloyd opens a successful chain of gyms, which specialize in teaching children kickboxing and mixed martial arts. I guess it doesn’t much matter, the point is that, all these years later, their epic love story is still a beacon of hope.