Oct. 3, 2005

Heathers (1989)
Grade: 66/100

Director: Michael Lehmann
Stars: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty

What it's about. Veronica (Winona Ryder) hangs with the most popular high school clique, even though she despises (and disapproves of) them. She falls under the spell of bad boy J.D. (Christian Slater), who has homicidal plans for the school's biggest jerks, himself excluded.

How others will see it. The ultimate in cynicism. High school society is ridiculed. Not just the geeks, the jocks, and the cool kids, but the teachers, administrators, and parents, as well. The only ones who come off well, after being subjected to the glare of the probing script, are Veronica's amusing parents (William Cort and Jennifer Rhodes) and unpopular classmate Betty Finn (Renee Estevez), who is nice and unassuming regardless of the circumstances.

Heathers is clever on occasion, and it is comforting that one of the school dweebs (the one who wants to feed the hungry) is at times depicted as a jerk. The club, after all, is not limited to jocks and socialites with an attitude. We're all members sooner or later.

How I felt about it. Heathers asks relevant questions. What makes people cool? What makes them popular? Must they put up a front to be cool or popular? Does this front take over the personality?

The answers the film provides are predictable. Veronica, our hottie brunette heroine, eventually takes heed of the film's message. She decides that the unpopular kids with no agenda except to be themselves have it right after all. Never mind that while Martha Dumptruck might not be a jerk, her life of "quiet desperation" isn't a desirable alternative.

Since not all high school students are the same, it's no surprise that the parents are also different. Veronica has model parents. They are sympathetic, friendly, present, but not intrusive or demanding. J.D., on the other hand, has a dead mother and a psycho father, the latter as cynical as the son. Their twisted role reversal game is far more severe than Veronica's tweaking (on cue) of her father's ego.

Remember the poisoning of Heather One? I watched the kitchen and bedroom scenes enough to know that the cup Heather drank has the mixed milk and orange juice. True, after Veronica was distracted by a kiss, she brought the poison, in a covered cup, to Heather. But this cup remains behind her back. Heather drinks JD's open cup instead. At least the scene has the best line of the film, "I"m going to have to send my SAT scores to San Quentin instead of Stanford."

The film's impact is reduced by the silly final scenes, which involve multiple 'scorned love' confrontations between the now wise Veronica and the now deranged J.D. These end not with a whimper, but a cartoonish bang, that leaves Veronica looking like Wile E. Coyote after another backfired attempt to bag the roadrunner. If cool isn't cool, how cool is that?