Less Than Zero (1987)

Less Than Zero (1987) movie poster

director Marek Kanievska
viewed: 07/31/2013

This is your brain.  This is your brain on drugs.  In the ’80’s.

Any questions?

Less Than Zero may have been based on Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name but it’s not a lot more than a feature length PSA about the evils of drugs.

In the ’80’s.

That it has any heart or character, some credit must be given to Robert Downey, Jr., Andrew McCarthy, and Jamie Gertz.  Somehow it has a trickle of heart.  Amid a desert of badness.  Downey, Jr. plays Julian, who in one semester post-high school has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, his record company, gotten deep into debt to sleazy drug dealer James Spader and is strung out like a mofo.  McCarthy’s Clay discovers this on returning on his first Christmas home from college.

A lot can happen when you’re 19.

Among the most unpleasant aspects of the film is a vague (or perhaps not vague at all) homophobia.  Spader’s drug dealer is suggested to be queer, perhaps in love with Downey Jr. and prostitutes him out to a heartless gay community when Julian fails to come up with the dough he owes him.

I’d never seen the film, which is part of why I ended up queuing it up.  Music producer Rick Rubin put together a very fine mid-1980’s soundtrack, which is perhaps the film’s best legacy.

Of course, apparently, Downey Jr. didn’t take this role to heart as he ended up spiraling into drug addiction for many years after.  If he’d just watched the film, he would have seen what drugs would have led him to: a strangely anti-climactic death in a convertible zooming through the desert on return from Palm Springs.  A proverbial frying pan, perhaps.

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