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Heathers (1988)

October 23, 2009

7/10 Homicidal Superlatives

It’s like Mean Girls mixed with Natural Born Killers. Sure. Why not?

Heather is about a nice girl named Veronica who’s trying to fit in with the most popular clique in school – a group of three girls all named Heather. Then one day she meets this mysterious young man in the cafeteria, comes to the realization that the Heathers suck, one thing leads to another and they whack the head Heather, stage it as a suicide…and end up making the Heathers more popular than ever before.

Yup, it’s pretty dark and it’s pretty strange, but it’s also one of the smarter, more observant teen comedies I’ve had the pleasure to watch. It’s totally ludicrous, but is it weird that I was kind of rooting for the Heathers to get snuffed out? Maybe it’s ’cause I’ve always had zero tolerance for asshole jocks and bitchy prom queens, but it’s kind of fun to see this bizarro storyline play out where the freaks rise up and kill off the “cool” kids.

Geez, I think I listened to too much grunge in High School.

Anyway, this isn’t your normal teen comedy, and that’s also it’s biggest strength.

Nowadays, teens killing teens might not sound like the funniest subject matter around, but you’d be surprised, it’s actually quite humorous if you know how to spin it. Well, most of the comedy here comes from the script serving as a total send-up of High School social hierarchies and – in the profound words of Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff – how parents just don’t understand, far more so than then teen-on-teen killing.

I really liked Heathers and what it was going for, but after I while I felt like I was getting a little lost in regards to grasping everything it was trying to say. The main gist of the story is about how no matter what you do, even commit murder, High School is High School. There are always going to be cliques, there are always going to Heathers, there are always going to be freaks, and that’s the way it is, the way it has been, and the way it always will be…but that doesn’t mean you have be part of the masses. At least I think that’s what it was about.

I don’t know, I think I’m a little confused.

It isn’t until the very last scene of the movie that everything came full-circle for me in regards to the story and Veronica’s motives, but this really isn’t a confusing movie, I think I’m just making things more complicated than they need to be. It’s a great last scene all the same, didn’t see it coming and it had me laughing out loud.

And like I mentioned a few paragraphs back, the script here by Daniel Waters is great. It captures a very credible teen voice and mindset without sugarcoating it, it’s really witty and observant, and the dialogue had me cracking up throughout. The thing it does best is that it just makes fun of everything about High School that’s so effing stupid and makes a point to accentuate the absurd to the point where everyone’s practically a walking caricature of their given stereotype. The students just follow the Heathers and the adults are utterly clueless about everything, and isn’t that so true?

Veronica and her mysterious boyfriend J.D. are played by Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. Neither of them really do much for me, but considering the characters are good, they’re good, too. Not much of a selling point, but they’re entertaining and they get it done. On second thought, considering how far into obscurity these two individuals have fallen since 1988, it’s fun to watch them back in their heyday. A charming, if unusual, couple. Still not too big on Slater’s whole “young Jack Nicholson” vibe, either. He lays it on heave here and I’m not buying it.

But all in all, Heathers is a pretty good movie. I think I’ll like it more the next time I see it, give me another chance to appreciate it’s subtle brilliance, but until then I’m content with a 7 out of 10. It’s definitely different, and I’m all for different.

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