Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The Street Value of a Mountain of Snow

It's hard enough when your girlfriend dumps you for the annoying stock jock character but sometimes you also have to deal green blobs for dinner that slither off your plate, an eight year old brother who can build lasers and spaceships, and hallucinations of singing hamburgers. 80s teen comedies seem to exist in some distinctive crossroads between absurdism and post-modernism; 1985's Better Off Dead has a young man attempting suicide repeatedly due to the stress imposed by humiliation on the ski slops and the terror of the local paper boy demanding his two dollars. The film's departures into fantasy save it from being an unremarkable exercise in romantic comedy.

Lane is played by a refreshingly soft looking John Cusack. And he's supposed to be an athlete--he's cheated out of the running in his first attempt to qualify for a ski competition and it's at this point his girlfriend, with whom he's so obsessed he has her face plastered all over his room and glued to all the hangers for all the clothes in his closet, promptly leaves him for the alpha male. Meanwhile, a cute foreign exchange student named Monique (Diane Franklin) pines for Lane from where she's staying across the street. Pretty standard stuff. Except it's all delivered with a nightmare logic.

When Lane's dad gets him a job at a fast food restaurant, Lane has to wear a bizarre pig mask. His boss turns out to be a guy whose care Lane has twice crashed into while trying to drag race with an Asian man who learned English by doing Howard Cosell impressions. While Lane isn't able to measure up for his girlfriend, his little brother also outpaces him by somehow throwing a party for himself and five beautiful twenty something women in his bedroom. Lane's mother (Kim Darby) destabilises even Lane's source of food by experimenting with oozes and alien creatures in every meal.

Every fear and humiliation is magnified cartoonishly which has the simultaneous effect of conveying the grave extent of Lane's problems while rendering them almost meaningless. It's pretty fun.

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