Ode to John Cusack

It’s impossible not to encounter an AWFUL lot of John Cusack when you’re perusing teen comedies. He practically had right of first refusal back in the 80s.

Say Anything

This one seems to lose a lot of sparkle the more I see it, and I’m not sure if it’s because it’s not aging well, or I’m not. Either way, the things that used to get me – the Peter Gabriel on the boomsayanything box, the post-virginity snail mail, it all starts to feel like not quite enough. Like, is this really the gold standard? I’m not sure if it used to impress me, but nowadays I just can’t shake the feeling that Lloyd Dobler is a loser. “Noble underachiever” is a phrase that can only be used by someone with the word teen at the end of their age. Unemployed, unambitious lazybones is more like it. Does that make me sound like my mother? Sure he’s sweet, but I like my sweet with a steady paycheque and some hobbies that go beyond stalking.

Better Off Dead

This movie is so bad I can’t even. Hadn’t seen this before, and should have kept it that way. The effects are terrible, although not quite as terrible as the wigs on the stunt doubles, but nothing holds a candle to the terribleness of the sentient hamburger animation. I can’t believe this didn’t derail Cusack’s career then and there. This comedy, which deals repeatedly with Lane (Cusack) better-off-dead-burgerwanting (and attempting) to kill himself because his girlfriend dumped him, should be much too dark for a burger playing an Eddie Van Halen song. And yet!

Turns out, no one hates this movie more than John Cusack. He walked out of the movie after 20 minutes of the screening and accused writer-director Savage Steve Holland of tricking him. “Better Off Dead was the worst thing I have ever seen. I will never trust you as a director ever again, so don’t speak to me.” He felt used and foolish and finished working with Holland only out of contractual obligation. Too bad they don’t mention any of this on the back of the DVD.

Sixteen Candles

Poor Molly Ringwald. She’s trying to turn 16 and it’s all going horribly wrong. John Cusack is only in this peripherally, as a skinny little nerd, but even he’s not enough to keep the nostalgic glow sixteencandlesalive. Matt recently re-watched this and couldn’t get over the overt racism – a gong literally sounds every time not-at-all-racistly-named Long Duk Dong comes on-screen. For me, it was the rape that was unbearable. There’s sexism throughout the movie, of course, but rape is rape. This isn’t creepy or questionable. It’s legally, certifiably, conviction-worthy rape, but the movie plays it like it’s just par for the course. John Hughes died in 2009, recently enough that a look back should have been painful, but we’ll never know what he thought because he all but retired from the spotlight in 1991 after John Candy died suddenly of a heart attack. He wrote a few terrible scripts – Maid In Manhattan, Drillbit Taylor – under a pseudonym but kept his privacy well-guarded. He was nevertheless a genius of his generation and I wish we could have heard him say he knew now that it was wrong. Because this movie does get it very, very wrong.

10 thoughts on “Ode to John Cusack

  1. Billy

    Very true, very true, but there is something about John Cusack… maybe cause I met him as a teenager and then proceeded to fall in love with unemployed lazy layabouts and so now, I agree, he is not exactly the rolemodel boyfriend you’d want for your daughter, but he is soooo cute. And I love Joan too. So doublesiblingcute. He was so cute. Oh dear. It was the 80s, we should forgive ourselves.


  2. Billy

    Oh and sorry, I didn’t actually see the other two and now thanks to you I just won’t. But High Fidelity, Grosse Pointe Blank, Being John Malkovich.. I just loved him. Sigh.


  3. mattasshole

    Believe it or not, lst week was actually the first time I saw Sixteen Candles. The movie really just felt wrong even though it was clearly not trying to provoke. It was just wrong. The first couple of times I heard the gong I thought I must be imagining it.


  4. ruth

    I’m not the biggest fan of John Cusack but I quite like him in Serendipity. There’s something so genuinely sincere about him, making him perfect for rom-coms 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jay Post author

      There IS something terribly sincere about him, which is why it was so jarring to see him play Richard Nixon of all people in The Butler.



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