Why did I choose this movie? In 1985 when I was an Australian exchange student called Monique who happened to be in America ,this movie, about French exchange student called Monique who happened to be in America ran almost weekly on cable TV. It was on so much one of my host sisters started calling me Mow-neek in the accent of the horrible host mother in the movie, complete with the face smushing actions.
So I love this movie because it holds a personal connection to me but for several other reasons as well.
1. John Cusack
What's not to love about John Cusack. This may well have been the first movie I saw him in he was quirky and intelligent and interesting. He didn't look like the cookie cutter teen movie heartthrob one was used to seeing and I liked that. I've liked him in just about everything I have seen him in since. Apparently John himself kind of disowns this movie and won't discuss it (his from a man who was in Hot Tub Time Machine!). I think that's a mistake because I know lots of people who met and fell in love with John in this movie.
2. Diane Franklin's Monique.
I really liked this character. She was just about the only one in the whole cast who was't a lunatic. She did dazed, confused and intelligent all at once. She was frustrated and exasperated but she was always a kind character. Oh yes and the short, foreign chick with curly hair got the guy. That's perfection right there.
3. Cast of wacky characters
In the movie Layne has been dumped by his girlfriend, the very perfect Beth, and he doesn't want to live without her. The kid is already depressed and he's not helped by the characters that torment him daily from his own oblivious parents, the psychotic paper boy or the Japanese race car drivers who burn him off, complete with track-style commentary, at the traffic lights every day. Of course these characters are absurd and over the top but they take the edge off the serious subject - Layne's many hopeless suicide attempts - and in a weird way show his reaction to being dumped is also ridiculous and over the top. Suicide isn't a funny subject but this movie makes it funny and it also shows that things get better, if you just hang in there.
4. Memorable moments
You know a movie is good if years later moments in your day to day life remind you of the movie. There are a few scenes like that in Better Off Dead. The movie often uses Layne's internal dialogue - he commentates with his inner thoughts so you get to see his awkward teen angst through his eyes. There's one where Beth rubs her nose so he rubs his she rubs harder so she does too and until their rubbing their faces with both hands like utter lunatics - each thinks the other is trying to say "Dude you have a little something....". Every time someone 'has a little something" this scene flashes through my mind nearly 30 years later.
It's hard sometimes to say why one movie stays with you so clearly and others fade. I'm not really a big fan of slapstick and prat-falling in movies and this movie has plenty. I think what this movie had as well, which is why I remember it, is heart oh yeah and a happy ending.