director Michael Lehmann
Heather, Oh, Heathers.
I don’t know if I was the target audience for Heathers but at 19, I had just hugely fallen for Winona Ryder after seeing her in Beetlejuice (1987) and this, the sharpest and darkest of teen comedies of its day, the anti-John Hughes film, was made to order.
So much so, I think I was always a little suspect of it. I mean, was it really good or did I just really like it more than I should?
It had been a long, long time since I’d seen the film. But back in the day, I probably watched it as much as I watched any movie. This was doubtlessly the apex or so of my Winona fixation. And this may well be her best film.
You know, the film really does hold up. It’s funny, it’s campy, it’s loaded with bizarre over-the-top teenage dialog that you probably never heard anyone ever utter outside of this movie but catches a certain je ne sais quoi and is pretty freaking hilarious. It’s packed with snarky cynicism that so aptly captured the zeitgeist of this Reagan-Bush era late 1980’s malaise. Everyone is creepy, crappy, and shallow.
Christian Slater used to grate on my more back in the day, channeling his Jack Nicholson intensely. Maybe I could chalk it more up to pure jealousy or envy. He’s quite good.
It is what it is, a real artifact of its time. I was struck by the scene in which J.D. (Slater) pulls a gun and shoots blanks at the two bullies in the lunchroom. You’d have to file that and the level of punishment doled out as an exemplar of pre-Columbine high school culture.
The film is ripe for interpretation, probably from a number of angles, most likely of course that being the teen or high school film. And from my viewing, I actually want to give it the credit that I was always a bit more dubious about back in the day. It is funny. It is sharp. It’s clever and timely and still plays very well.
I honestly thought at the time that Michael Lehmann would go on to great things (proof that even early on I ascribed to an auteurist perspective of some sort.) He didn’t, of course.
And Winona. I hold a soft spot for her that is entirely hers alone.