Robert Downey Jr.
LESS THAN ZERO has all of its bases covered. Acting-wise, Robert Downey Jr. is a revelation as the coke fiend and when you take into account his recent drug-related arrests, it made me wonder if he really got high for the role. Either way, what an amazing performance! Jamie Gertz is dead-on as the confused girlfriend. She excels at displaying vulnerability and I lost myself in her big brown eyes more than once. Andrew McCarthy is also on the money as the straight shooter of the bunch. I did have trouble buying that he didn’t at least falter once, considering the temptations that surrounded him, but that’s a minor screenplay complaint, not an acting one. Add to that, a scary gay (or is he bi) drug dealer in the guise of James Spader (Rip) at his slimy best and you get a rock on cast.
Substance-wise, the flick explores all of its issues and relationships extensively. The love triangle never takes too much space and the main characters are all given enough screen time to shine. The core of the story also comes through gangbusters. The depictions of Julian’s sad downfall and his desperate struggle to surmount his addiction are extremely engaging. I felt for the guy and his situation. I also really dug how amidst all of the chaos, the film still managed to properly handle the theme of “friendship”. It rang true and hit home. On a candy level, the flick goes all-out in portraying the superficial, excessive, rich and empty 80’s world in which the players lived. Bright colors abound, the fashions are outrageous, the swimming pools are bluer than the sky, the beach scenery is breathtaking, the cars and the ladies are all hot and the soundtrack is all about groovy old school rap, rock and reggae (where’s my 80’s pop?). Hell on earth never looked so good! Add to that, a very poignant score, stylish directing, a fearless attitude on the movie’s part (it gets ugly) and a gripping finale and you get an 80’s classic that still holds up like a champ today .