Movie Review: Better Off Dead (1985)

Title: Better Off Dead
Release Date: August 23, 1985
Director: Savage Steve Holland
Production Company: A&M Films | CBS Theatrical Films

Lane Meyer (John Cusack) becomes suicidal after his girlfriend Beth (Amanda Wyss) dumps him for an obnoxious jock,  but his increasingly elaborate attempts to kill himself fail spectacularly.  This doesn’t sound like the premise for a comedy, but in the hands of Savage Steve Holland it becomes an iconic teen movie of the 1980s.  The absurdity of Lane’s life is everywhere, from his eccentric parents (played by tv veterans Kim Darby and David Ogden Stiers), the Korean drag racers who talk like Howard Cosell, and an extremely persistent paperboy (and this only scratches the surface of the oddities in this movie).  The soundtrack is also eclectic with songs by Howard Jones, Van Halen, Neil Sedaka, Frank Sinatra, and Muddy Waters, among others.  Lane’s life turns around when he befriends French exchange student Monique (Diane Franklin) who helps him regain his confidence.

This was one of my favorite movies when I was younger, mostly because it is so extremely silly with hilarious, quotable dialogue. On the downside, it gave me the unrealistic hope that my teenage romantic woes might be solved if only my school got a cute foreign exchange student.  But it only occured to me on this rewatch that so much of the absurdity serves to reflect the heightened emotions of teenagerhood.  I’m guessing that I’m probably ranking this movie too highly based on nostalgia, but those memories are an important part of my experience with this movie, and besides it still makes me laugh.

Rating: ****