A college freshman returns to Los Angeles for Christmas at his ex-girlfriend's request, but discovers that his former best friend has an out-of-control drug habit.
RELEASED IN 1987 and directed by Marek Kanievska, "Less than Zero" is a drama about a trio of rich 18 year-olds from Los Angeles. After graduation, one goes off to college (Andrew McCarthy), but returns for Christmas break wherein he finds his ex-girlfriend (Jami Gertz) and, especially, his buddy (Robert Downey Jr.) struggling with drug addiction in the Beverly Hills fast lane. James Spader plays a smug high society dealer. This is the furthest thing from typical 80’s youth flicks, like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “The Karate Kid,” “Valley Girl,” “Footloose” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” (where there’s, admittedly, a lot of range). “Less than Zero” has the epic, artsy style of Francis Ford Coppola films like “The Outsiders” and “Rumble Fish” (both from 1983) meshed with the chic melancholy of “Poison Ivy” (1992). My main issue is that it takes too long to get absorbed into the characters and their story. The filmmaking is gorgeous, however, which is ironic because this is a really downbeat movie. Gertz is fine, but she never did anything for me, while McCarthy is serviceable as the main protagonist, yet rather bland in a goody-goody way. Both Downey Jr. and Spader, however, de-shine in their roles (in a good way). If you favor arty, glum movies you might like this better than me, but it’s nowhere near as effective as “Poison Ivy,” a similar artsy, gloomy flick. The movie runs 1 hour 38 minutes and was shot in the Los Angeles area, including Malibu. WRITERS: Bret Easton Ellis (novel) and Harley Peyton (screenplay) GRADE: C+