Neal Damiano revisits Marek Kanievska’s Less Than Zero, a 1987 film that perfectly “captures the mood and scene of Los Angeles” during the eighties. The film topped our list of best “drug-themed” movies…
Visually and emotionally riveting, Less Than Zero brought to life a vivid film adaptation of the contemporary classic novel by Bret Easton Ellis starring an all-star cast including Andrew McCarthy, Robert Downey Jr, Jamie Gertz, and James Spader. No other film visually captures the mood and scene of Los Angeles in the mid eighties. There was an energy and excitement going on in downtown LA from the music and fashion to the partying and nightlife.
Clay (McCarthy) returns to Beverly Hills with a less than perfect situation where his girlfriend Blair (Gertz) is addicted to cocaine and his best friend Julian (Downey Jr) has a heroin habit the size of Utah. What makes the film so captivating is the fact that it is a life most of us do not lead. The bright lights, fancy clubs, textured clothes and pretty people shine without a care in the world. A life of money, privilege, and debauchery; that these people never seem bored with life is quite alluring. One nightclub to the next and party after party, shifting from person to person. The characters seem like ghosts with a sort of pushed emotion. It’s very much a character- centered film with the three central performances being near flawless. Clay as the aloof, almost cold observer now distant from the group and disillusioned from the lifestyle; Blair as the panic-struck girl watching her friend disintegrate into drug-fueled oblivion; and Julian completely destroying his overall being.
The whole movie looks as sensational as an MTV music video and perhaps acts as a cautionary tale. The need to connect to something real is brewing inside them. A deeper meaning of life is tapping at their conscious. We certainly don’t want their lives but maybe that’s why it’s so entrancing, that element of danger and constant gratification. Less Than Zero points an unforgiving finger at the excesses of the 1980s and takes us into the underbelly of a life that so many wished they could lead and so many wished they could forget.