It’s a hot summer night as Diane Court tosses and turns in her bed. Besides a slight breeze, the only sound coming through her open window is the song of late night summer crickets. Then the melody of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” begins to echo through the night sky, breaking the relative silence.
Court sits up in her bed with a confused expression painted on her face. A quick scene change reveals a trench coat clad Lloyd Dobler, boom box held overhead – the source of the silence breaking serenade. Dobler is Romeo at this moment, complete with his grey stallion in the form of a beat up Chevy Malibu parked behind him. Court is his Juliet.
Cameron Crowe has a knack for capturing the simplistic essence of life where living in the moment is top priority and music acts as one’s heartbeat and motivation.
His late-‘80s classic, Say Anything, is no exception. True to other Crowe films, his main charters’ every move are tethered to music. A fitting song accompanies each perfectly awkward moment between polar opposites Dobler (John Cusak) and Court (Ione Skye) as they get to know one another.
The contrasting lifestyles of Dobler and Court are apparent when “Taste the Pain” by Red Hot Chili Peppers cues the film’s opening. The 80s funk electronic guitar riffs and punches of Anthony Kiedis’ vocals blast through Dobler’s speakers, interrupted only when introductory scenes of Court and her father appear (and when Dobler shoves a matchbox in his cassette player to keep it from missing a beat). The choice efficiently emphasizes how vastly different the main characters’ worlds are.
The film continues with a graduate’s tone-deaf rendition of “Greatest Love of All” preceding Court’s valedictorian speech. It’s painstakingly evident that Court is a stranger to her classmates. The speech is received by the absence of sound, save her father’s laugh after Court’s attempt at an opening joke. Dobler, however, is captivated, whispering to his best friend, Corey Flood (Lili Taylor), “Look at those eyes.” Thank goodness for foreshadowing; a theme is born.
Crowe sets the theme in stone when the next scene shows a commotion of family and friends scuffling around congratulating the freshly minted adults, yet the only thing Dobler can focus on is “those eyes.” Again he turns to Flood and without fear of sounding repetitive says, “look at those eyes,” as if he only now noticed the depth of Court’s beauty.
Dobler seizes the feelings of finality graduation induces and musters the courage to ask Court to be his after graduation party date. Court jumps at the chance to finally meet her classmates on a personal level.
Aerosmith’s American hard rock sound and Steve Tyler’s screaming vocals in “Back in the Saddle” perfectly portray the wild world that Court is about to step foot in. Popcorn flies overhead as Dobler escorts Court through the massive crowd of inebriated teenagers sharing fighting words, making out and showcasing their pitiful alcohol intolerance.
Separated by party conversations and impeding tasks, continuous eye-locking moments consummate the flirting and its musical marriage during the song and beer rich graduation party.
The music remains fast paced while the act of Dobler and Court staring into each other’s eyes slows down—drawing more attention to his longing admiration for her.
Meanwhile, Court is interrogated about her connection to Dobler. Watching from a distance Dobler makes sure she is OK and their eyes lock again. The spastic fusion of ska, rap, funk, punk and metal is heard in Fishbone’s “Shakin’ to the beat,” begins to play as Dobler peers through the flying popcorn and Court strolls through the party. Their eyes meet once more, but she turns away. With a quick change of the cassette tape, Cheap Trick’s “You Want It” brings more spying. The two continue migrating toward one another.
Joe Satriani’s wild guitar riff in “Big Rush” introduces a human sized piñata pulling the star-crossed lovers to a much-anticipated rendezvous. Their worlds are finally melding.
Expected flirting, first base scoring and repeated dating occurs, regardless of the couple’s official status, which creates the tension needed for the film’s rising action. Cue the climax and the infamous and aforementioned “Boom Box Scene.” As the lyrics, “I reach out from the inside,” play from the stereo’s speakers, Dobler gets a better grip and with every bit of extension he has left lifts the boom box even higher without any signs of fatigue. Yet, Court continues rustling in her bed and turns away from the window.
The expression of longing for her to come to the window is embedded in the depths of Dobler’s gaze. With this, the camera zooms into Dobler’s big brown puppy dog eyes and the lyrics, “In your eyes, I am complete; in your eyes, I see the doorway to a thousand churches,” begins to fade along with the hope of the two lovers rekindling their relationship.
Crowe not only captured and brilliantly soundtracked every element of a love story between two recent high school graduates, by choosing to keep the romance between Dobler and Court a summer tryst, he also captured a reality most films ignore.