If you haven’t seen Less Than Zero, and want to be transported back in time to 1987, then this is the perfect movie to check out. Less Than Zero hits hard, it’s not an easy film to watch, and I must admit that this film has stuck with me, it has a lingering effect. This review is spoiler free, but we will be having an in depth analysis of it with David from ThatMomentIn.com in our upcoming podcast episode, so stay tuned!
Firstly, let’s address the elephant in the room, Robert Downey Jr. He is now one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, and good for him, the man can act, and I am sure his persona has something to do with that too. We all know that he did have a rough patch, and to a certain degree we all go through a rough patch, we all have to go through the process of growing up. Knowing this makes this film relatable to everyone. The performance delivered by Robert Downey Jr. is fantastic, and although he serves more of a ‘supporting’ role in the film, when we talk about the movie, now, we talk about Julian, the drug addicted, debt ridden, youthful Robert Downey Jr. He is the star of Less Than Zero.
Having said this, I did not warm to the character of Clay as much, and I don’t think that Andrew McCarthy delivered a convincing performance. Jami Gertz was up and down in this film, and her performance when she was high on cocaine was not convincing enough. James Spader, a really young, James Spader is powerful in his role of Rip. All together we have a great ensemble that help resonate the artistic concepts of it’s writers and director. The most enjoyable moments in the film are when Clay, Blair and Julian are all present, as a trio, they emanate true love and the meaning of youthfulness.
This film does feel like watching a series of unending 80’s music videos, and I am not complaining. The music is enjoyable, and enough to get your feet tapping. Marek Kanievska’s direction has generated a visually entertaining piece, with some great uses of colour and framing to capture the right mood and atmosphere. One does feel like one is also partying along.
I am certain that when this film was released it was a film designed to warn the youth about the dangers of drugs, AIDS and over partying. Even today it serves a stern example, and tragic, at that, of what can happen when drugs are abused. Audiences watching this back then, maybe, would have disliked the character of Julian, but today Julian is the hero, the film is about him, it is about his struggle and his oppression. Less Than Zero is a moving character study of the victim that gets caught up in the system, the system that is designed to chew you up and then spit you out. These victims are everywhere, perhaps even more so today, do we shun them, or do we extend a helping hand? Food for thought, I know this film made me think, I hope it evokes emotion in you too.
Here is an idea, a theory. Clay and Julian are the same person. Clay is the brighter elements of this person, and Julian represents the darker elements of this person. This theory then makes the ending a happy one. Any thought?
TRIVIA COOKIE: This film was filmed during May – July of 1987. I was born during the same period.