A 1987 of the Heart: I Rewatch “Less Than Zero”

A 1987 of the Heart: I Rewatch “Less Than Zero” July 3, 2014

…because of course I do.

So this used to be on Netflix streaming, but I didn’t tell you about it then, because what am I, your butler? Anyway, you can still get it through Netflix Delayed Gratification. The first time I watched LTZ was December 2011, about a month before I had my last drink (so far). I don’t know if it was what I do for a living–the compulsively analytical eye of the person who gets engulfed by art for money–or the emotional numbness and batteredness of active addiction, but I was somewhat distanced from the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. But it was great this time to know what it would do and just let that thing wash through me. With the exception of the AfterSchool Special ending, this is a nearly perfect movie, in which every frame does exactly the thing you want it to do.

My scattered notes from the rewatch–this is a list of perfect things:

* Fire-engine red, sans-serif credits

* Andrew McCarthy’s callow doughface, no edge anywhere in his face at all but you can see the pores

* McCarthy and Jami Gertz deliver their lines like sentences cut out from some other movie and pasted together. It completely works. They’re displaced, in over their heads, mannered and inadequate.

* The constant candy-eating in their parents’ houses

* the sincerity and openness, submissiveness, in Robert Downey Jr’s face and body language (curving upward, consistently lowering his face so he’s looking up at whoever he’s talking to)

* red white and blue comic-book lighting in the balcony scene

* more red white and blue in this pool scene, also more Julian tiny in huge landscape, like the scene where he’s tapdancing at foot of carpeted stairs

* the beautiful white sun in the graveyard scene

Look, it’s not that I “recommend” this movie in some universal sense. But if you think you might need it, you do.

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