Saturday, 5 May 2012


Year:  1989
Director:  Michael Lehmann
Screenplay:  Daniel Waters
Starring:  Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker, Penelope Milford, Glenn Shadix
Running Time:  102 minutes
Genre:  High school, dark comedy, teen

This surreal, dark comedy is one of the best teen movies of the 1980s.  In the small town of Sherwood, Ohio, Westerberg High School is run by a clique of three popular girls who are all named Heather:  the malicious and bitchy leader of the group Heather Chandler (Walker), the bookish and bulimic Heather Duke (Doherty) and the weak-willed cheerleader Heather McNamara (Falk).  Despite being envied and lusted after, the "Heathers" are pretty much despised by the student population. The newest member of the group is Veronica Sawyer (Ryder) who hates the "Heathers" as much as anyone else, and, sick of "swatchdogs and diet cokeheads", longs to return to her old life and geeky friends.  Everything changes when she meets new student, the rebellious and charismatic Jason Dean (Slater) otherwise known as "J.D.".  Veronica and J.D. soon start dating and together plot to overthrow Heather Chandler's domination.  However, when a prank intended to humiliate Heather Chandler winds up being lethal, Veronica is quickly forced to deal with J.D.'s murderous true nature, as the body count swiftly increases.

Daniel Waters wrote the script hoping that Stanley Kubrick would direct it.  However several attempts to get the script to Kubrick failed and it wound up being given to director Michael Lehmann.  A number of actors were approached for the film, including Jennifer Connelly who turned it down due to the film's dark subject matter and a then 17 year old Heather Graham, whose mother refused to let her do the film.  Brad Pitt auditioned for the role of J.D. but was turned down due to the producers thinking he came across as "Too nice" and would not be credible in the role.  
The film is stylish and witty with a genuinely funny script which has a strong feel for teen-speak.  However it does deal with some very serious subjects including teen suicide, the pressures to conform, and adults who are either oblivious to or completely misunderstand teenagers.  The film also deals with the callousness of teenagers and adults.  In one scene, Veronica is at a funeral and is shocked by the only display of genuine grief there, form a young child. 
Winona Ryder does a great job as Veronica and Christian Slater does really well as the wild and crazy J.D., a performance obviously inspired by James Dean with shades of the sociopathic Alex from A Clockwork Orange (1971).
Funny, dark, and thoughtful the film is very berry.

Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker and Winona Ryder in Heathers

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