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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Nov 17: Heathers

Saturday

Nov 17: Heathers

"A girl who half-heartedly tries to be part of the "in crowd" of her school meets a rebel who teaches her a more devious way to play social politics."
Directed by: Michael Lehmann, Rated: R, 103 minutes

Heathers is one of those movies that could have only been made in the 80s. It's full of dark, dark themes that could never fly these days and is packed with incredible lines of dialogue that you'd only find in a raunchy comedy. It's the perfect blend of morbid, genius, and hilarity and proves to be the dark horse in the race for best 80s teenage comedy. It's a memorable movie that can be quoted over and over and after re-watching the film, I have only reaffirmed my love for it.


As we all know, if you want to f**k with the eagles, you have to learn to fly.

Veronica (Winona Ryder) is your usual troubled teenager. She gave up her true friends to get in with the Heathers, the popular girls in school, and has fallen into the position of being their bitch. She's used as a tool for the Heathers to make fun of everyone in school and make their lives miserable. Enter J.D (Christian Slater), the mysterious new kid in town who proves to be an outlet for Veronica's frustrations. He's rough around the edges, certainly troubled, and has a violent streak about him that's not quite comfortable. After venting her frustrations to J.D and realizing the Heathers are awful human beings that are destroying the school, they plan to murder them, staging each as a suicide. Sadly, with each death, the school goes crazy in love for the departed and turn each victim into a martyr, questioning why the suicides would happen. As things progress, J.D gets a little too carried away with the violence and his plans of "leaving a message" blow up to an extreme. Veronica is stuck in a terrible position and must decide on whether or not to go deeper in the rabbit role with her new found love or abandon ship before things go too far.


We all experienced this in high school. Right? Wha.. Okay, I was the only one. 

Heathers' biggest strength is the dialogue. So much of what all of the teenagers say feels like something you'd actually hear in a high school, but with a 80s style and sense of humor injected into it. It's twisted and graphic, yet you'll find yourself laughing out loud at the cleverness of it all. It's a smart comedy that's much stronger than most satirical films out there, and seeing the teenage comedy genre turned on its side, turned inside out, then stabbed to death is so much fun. Yes, that's what Heathers does to you. It makes you relish the f**ked up ideas behind it and laugh at the destruction that plays out on screen. Winona Ryder and Christian Slater both give excellent performances (playing themselves). Ryder brings her dark-sided innocence to the role of Veronica and she's easily believable as a teenager with problems, even if she's a bit of a caricature of that character. Slater is slick and charismatic as J.D and his character is a rough idea of what Patrick Bateman may have been like in high school. The two play off each other wonderfully and create a Bonnie & Clyde for the high school demographic. Their crusade even starts off with good intentions, and plays on the deep, twisted, thoughts we all had in high school.


"Teenage angst. Brought to you by Hull Clean. For a no-rust-build-up junior year."

Heathers proves time and again to be one of the darkest comedies I have ever seen as well as one of the most entertaining. It's what happens when the bubble-gum chewing, cheerleaders choke on a handful of nails and plays off of the thoughts and frustrations everyone had in high school. It's relatable, yet extreme, and in its this marriage that Heathers shines. Instead of the over-familiar story of trying to fit in, by doing whatever necessary, Heathers tells a tale of killing your way to the top, through all of the popular girls and the jocks. Sure, it's a messed up message and doesn't teach much about the actual high school experience, but it's still relatable in a f**ked up way and is so over-the-top you appreciate the humor. I would highly recommend checking it out and continually quoting it year after year. 

The Good:
great performances from the two leads who, in essence, are just playing over-dramatized versions of themselves (thus, they're perfect)
The Bad:
laughing your ass off at the worst situations and finding humor in the morbid and twisted ideas at the center of the film
The Ugly:
thinking something like this would never fly in 2012 and the boundaries we used to push are taken back a bit and shifted to the right

Overall: 8.6/10

Discussion Question:
Do you think a dark comedy dealing with bullying and high school murders could be made today? Or is too much shit going on in the world today for this to be "acceptable"?

Trailer:

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10 Comments:

At November 17, 2012 at 10:21 PM , Blogger Nikhat said...

I love this film. It's like Mean Girls meet Fight Club. Love love love. I don't know if this can be made today (looking at you, television show remake) especially because of the leads. Ryder and Slater are brilliant.

 
At November 17, 2012 at 11:22 PM , Blogger TheVern said...

Hmmm . I don't want to say that it couldn't be done. After all I heard there was a TV series of this being released soon. I don't think JD and Patrick Bateman are alike. Bateman would want to fit in with the popular crowd more than take them down. Good review

 
At November 18, 2012 at 1:22 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Mean Girls meets Fight Club... I understand the MG part but FC... eh.. maybe lol.

 
At November 18, 2012 at 1:23 AM , Blogger Nick said...

That's true about Bateman. I think his just overall attitude and tone of voice is what reminded me of him.

 
At November 19, 2012 at 5:02 AM , Anonymous Dan said...

One of my favourite dark comedies. Christian Slater and Winona Rider are great. One of the things I like about the film is that it holds up so well today.

 
At November 19, 2012 at 10:14 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Indeed it does. Glad to know someone loves this a lot as well!

 
At November 20, 2012 at 3:06 PM , Anonymous Karl Kaefer said...

Nick,

there's actually a horror film called "The Final (2010), which definitely riffs on "Heathers", though it's not a comedy. This is a magnificent film....the closest modern equivalent we have is Bobcat Goldthwait's "God Bless America"...so yes, I do think that an independent production could do a post-Columbine comedy.

 
At November 20, 2012 at 3:53 PM , Blogger Nick said...

I love God Bless America. In the latest episode of As You Watch (my podcast) we discuss Heathers and dark comedies. I mentioned God Bless America. You can listen to it come Thursday.

 
At November 24, 2012 at 12:57 AM , Anonymous Courtney said...

I wish movies could be made like this...but it would have to be somehow slapped with a PG-13 rating to attract a younger crowd (a la Mean Girls), but because of the extremely dark subtext, it would probably fly under the radar. Love Heathers. It's one of the movies I probably quote the most :)

 
At November 24, 2012 at 1:00 AM , Blogger Nick said...

You should listen to the As You Watch podcast. We talk about how it wouldn't be able to get made today. We also have an interview with the film's editor on the way, and we talk about that as well.

 

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