Better Off Dead (1985) is my ultimate piece of '80s nostalgia. In high school, my buddies and I watched this movie hundreds of times, and even though we could recite the film word for word, it still managed to make us laugh.
Lane Meyers, portrayed by a then-unknown John Cusack, is a high school student whose girlfriend, Beth, dumps him for a new guy who is "better looking, more popular, drives a better car... ." To deal with the breakup, Lane decides to kill himself. His half-hearted attempts end up just causing him more public embarrassment.
Sounds like a horrible movie, I know. But this is a politically incorrect dark comedy unlike any I've seen. Cusack's ability to deliver dry wit throughout the film is nothing short of genious, and in many ways I hate that he's gone on to bigger, more successful endeavors. For this truly was his perfect role.
The film is filled with quirky characters, from his wannabe drug-addicted best friend (who actually sniffs things like jello and snow), his oddball mother who is the world's worst cook, and his large, silently nerdy next door neighbor Ricky. Not to mention the paper boy from hell ("I want my TWO dolllars!")
The movie was the directoral debut for Savage Steve Holland, who later directed two films with similar feels -- One Crazy Summer (with a young Demi Moore) and How I Got Into College. Better Off Dead was a semi-autobiographical look at Holland himself, who after being dumped by his high school girlfriend decided to shoot a series of short sad films. When he showed them to his epathetic friends, they laughed at him.
Some critics have actually said this is the best comedy ever, and in many ways, I have to agree. For me, it's definitely one that holds a special place in my heart and that I still enjoy laughing with every chance I get.
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