Better Off Dead

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Better Off Dead
Genre: Comedy
Romance
Teen
Photography: Color
Running Time: 97 minutes
Country: United States
Release Date: August 23, 1985
Directed by: Savage Steve Holland
Written by: Savage Steve Holland
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Starring: John Cusack
David Ogden Stiers
Diane Franklin
Kim Darby


Better Off Dead is a 1985 American teen romantic comedy film written and directed by Savage Steve Holland starring John Cusack.

Plot

In the town of Greendale in northern California, high school student Lane Myer's two main interests are skiing and his girlfriend of six months, Beth. Shortly before Christmas, Beth dumps Lane for the handsome and popular captain of the ski team, Roy Stalin. Roy is also an arrogant bully who unfairly rejects Lane at ski team tryouts. Beth also criticizes Lane's car, an old station wagon. Although Lane also owns a disabled 1967 Camaro, he has not been able to get it running.

Lane lives in a suburban development with his mother, Jenny, a ditzy housewife who routinely concocts creepy (and creeping) family meals; his genius little brother, Badger, who never speaks but at the age of "almost 8" can build powerful lasers and attract trashy women from “How-to” books; and his lawyer father, Al, who daily tries to stop the menacing paperboy, Johnny, from damaging his garage with thrown newspapers. Furthermore, Johnny claims that the Myers owe him two dollars for newspapers, and persistently hounds Lane yelling "I want my two dollars!" Lane also regularly encounters two Korean drag racers, one of whom learned to speak English by listening to Howard Cosell.

Lane cannot get past Beth's rejection and decides that death is the only way out of his misery. He makes several half-hearted attempts at suicide, which all comically fail. With the help of his best friend, Charles de Mar, (who in lieu of not being able to get "real drugs" in their small town, constantly inhales everyday substances like Jell-O, snow, and nitrous oxide in a whipped cream can) Lane tries to ski the K-12, the highest peak in town, in hopes of getting Beth back but wipes out. Lane is further embarrassed when he gets fired from his humiliating fast food job at Pig Burgers in front of Roy and Beth, who are there on a date. To top it all, he increasingly begins to suffer from neurotic hallucinations owing to the mounting frustrations in his life.

As Lane attempts to either end his life or win back his ex-girlfriend, he gradually gets to know a new girl: a French foreign-exchange student named Monique, who has a crush on him. She is staying with Lane's overbearing neighbor Mrs. Smith, who continually tries to force Monique into being a girlfriend for her socially backward son Ricky. The pair are so annoying that she pretends she cannot speak English. Monique, a Dodgers fan, turns out to be an excellent auto mechanic and skier who helps Lane fix his Camaro and tries to build his confidence. When Roy insults Monique, Lane challenges him to a ski race down the K-12, with the winner to be captain of the ski team. Monique helps Lane prepare for the race, which he ultimately wins despite losing one ski and being pursued by Johnny. Beth rushes to embrace Lane at the finish line, but he rejects her and, after besting Ricky (who attempts to keep Lane from rescuing Monique from the restraints of his mother) in a ski-pole swordfight, drives off with Monique in his Camaro. Lane and Monique are last seen kissing at home plate at Dodger Stadium, with Johnny bicycling towards them, while in a mid-credit scene Badger demolishes his house by launching a home-made space shuttle from his room.

Why It Rocks

  1. Highly original plot.
  2. The film is largely entertaining and wacky.
  3. Charming performance from John Cusack.
  4. Diane Franklin is very good playing Monique and does a really convincing French accent.
  5. Excellent social commentary regarding teen suicide.
  6. It's extremely unpredictable and surreal.
  7. The gags (such as the Korean drag racers and Johnny the paperboy) fit well with the plot.
  8. Nice chemistry between Lane and Monique.
  9. Lane's family are very funny in their own ways, especially Badger.
  10. Johnny is quite intimidating and genuinely scary for a child character.
  11. Memorable quotes such as "Man, that's a real shame when folks be throwin' away a perfectly good white boy like that." and "I want my two dollars!"
  12. Awesome score from singer and producer, Rupert Hine.
  13. Great cameo from singer and future voice actress, E.G. Daily.

Bad Qualities

  1. The themes about suicide can be unsettling, especially when Lane attempts to take his own life several times.