Throwback Thursday: Less Than Zero

When you see the words Andrew McCarthy, James Spader, and Robert Downey Jr. back to back you know you’re in the deep 80s. It was a Ringwald short of being the most 80s movie of all time. Still this is no John Hughes feel good film. It takes a gritty look at drug addiction amongst cocaine-fueled rich kids of California.

This film is an adaption of a novel by Bret Easton Ellis, the author of American Psycho, which explains the dark subject matter. It is gritty and dark, but sometimes the acting borders on silly, mostly by McCarthy and the female lead, Jami Gertz. It depicts the glamorous but overtly dark side of the extremely wealthy teens of California.

It’s a film that looks and sounds amazing, but when you really examine it, it starts to unravel. The soundtrack and cinematography feels so nostalgically 80s, but the story itself seems flawed. The characters are inherently unlikable. The only person you even start to feel badly for is Julian, Robert Downey Jr.’s character. It is also an eerie parallel that Downey Jr. also battled drug and alcohol addiction later in his life, really connecting him to his character. James Spader is also deliciously evil as only James Spader can be. Andrew McCarthy is the worst part of this movie; with his smug smirkiness that makes him just seem like an asshole all the time. And this is coming from a big Andrew McCarthy fan, even if my only reference is Pretty in Pink and Weekend at Bernie’s and he was the worst in those too. He usually rides on his ability to be adorable and a little dorky, but just comes across as such a jerk in this movie and I don’t know why. He’s just not that likeable.

I don’t think it was a bad movie, but the whole time there just seemed something off about it. I think James Spader and Robert Downey Jr. emerged with the best performances and everyone else tried to keep up with them. The ending also feels like a rushed climax that loses emotional effect. The most intense scenes are the withdrawal scenes and then after that it derails pretty quickly. It introduces intense themes and situations but doesn’t go all in with them. I feel like if they just went full throttle into the harder aspects of the situation than it could have potentially been a much more successful and grittier take on the story.

Amy’s Recommendation: 6/10




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