Monday, September 14, 2015

Movie Review: "Heathers" (1988)

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Director: Michael Lehmann
Year: 1988
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Veronica (Winona Ryder) wants to be part of the most popular clique in school, the Heathers, and she is well on her way to achieving that goal...that is, until she meets and starts dating the new kid in school, J.D. (Christian Slater), who will change the course of her life forever in the most unimaginable way possible.  

"Heathers" is a dark comedy that would most likely be considered in rather poor taste if it were released today. Winona Ryder plays Veronica, a good girl who has been working her way in with the cool clique at her high school, the Heathers, comprised of Heather Chandler, played by Kim Walker, Heather Duke, played by Shannen Doherty, and Heather McNamara, played by Lisanne Falk. Heather Chandler is the leader of their bitch squad and is a cruel human being, especially to the unpopular kids. She often makes jokes directly to their faces, plays pranks on them, and pulls stunts directed at their expense. Veronica doesn't like who she is becoming by being involved with this group, and though these girls are technically her best friends, she absolutely loathes them. One day at lunch, she meets J.D., played by a perpetually the same looking Christian Slater, the son of a famous real estate developer, meaning he moves from town to town a lot. Veronica becomes enamored with J.D. and tells him of her true feelings about the Heathers, especially Heather Chandler. J.D. comes up with a solution and sells it to Veronica as if they are playing a prank on Heather Chandler. What Veronica doesn't know but quickly comes to realize is J.D. is a sociopath and his real solution actually involves murdering people and passing the murders off as suicides. What seems to start off as an accident quickly spins out of control as J.D. wants to kill more and more students as a big F-you to society.

In 2015, when reading the synopsis for a film about kids being murdered by other students at their school, but it's actually a comedy, it becomes very obvious why it wouldn't exactly fly if it were made in today's current political and cultural climate. It's not like school shootings and other crimes at schools didn't happen prior to this film's release, but the 24 hour news cycle, the introduction and over-saturation of the internet, and the availability of information have made these crimes far more prevalent in the media, in society, and in our minds. Despite the subject matter, this movie is pretty damn funny in a twisted way. Much of it is very over-the-top and is clearly done in a satirical manner. We understand this style of comedy isn't for everyone, even if it works for us personally. Winona Ryder is great in her part as Veronica. She really does have the look of a good girl, but it always feels like she has a bit of a dark side underneath her good exterior. Christian Slater fits the part of a sociopath well, which again, how much of this statement is actually a compliment? We wouldn't go as far as saying his performance is spectacular, but it works because it's something about his eyes or eyebrows that makes him look a little sinister. He is not a tremendous actor anyway as we know from his numerous failed attempts at keeping a television show on the air throughout the decades (but we're glad he's found a home on Mr. Robot). When it comes to movies about school, this is probably one of the better ones out there. Sure, it's a bit dated in its references and insults, but it's like watching a piece of time unfold before our eyes, a cinematic snapshot of what the 80's used to be like, and let us tell you, it's so 80's. We know we probably shouldn't laugh at someone drinking drain cleaner or someone smashing face-first through a glass table, but we just can't help it. The Heathers are expertly crafted to be a detestable group of bimbos who will ultimately peak in high school, think of a late 80's-"Mean Girls," praying on the weak and the different. We all knew a Heather, didn't we? And we probably all thought about what it would be like to see them fail epically in front of the entire school...maybe just not to the extent it gets taken in "Heathers," but still, you get the picture. When we see them one by one bite the bullet, part of us, the stark, raving mad part, wants to cheer. In the end, we really laughed a lot at this movie. It's one of the best teen films out there, and for those who are as slightly off kilter as we are, you'll enjoy the dark humor of it, too.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 90%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching: "Sex Tape"

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