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Better Off Dead is a 1985 teen black comedy film starring John Cusack, written and directed by Savage Steve Holland. Originally released by Warner Bros. on October 11, 1985, it tells the story of high school student Lane Meyer who is suicidal after his girlfriend breaks up with him. It is known for its presentation of a typical high school life, interspersed with the occasional absurdity. Better Off Dead was produced by CBS. Paramount Pictures now owns theatrical and video rights to the film.

Plot

Better Off Dead takes place in the fictional town of Greendale in "the state of Northern California" and centers on high-schooler Lane Meyer (John Cusack), whose girlfriend Beth (played by Amanda Wyss) dumps him for the arrogant and bullying captain of the high school ski team, Roy Stalin. Lane cannot get past this rejection and decides that death is the only way out of his misery. His half-hearted attempts at suicide, however, always manage to leave him alive, with comedic consequences.

Lane's family is odd: his mother (Kim Darby) is a sort of deranged Stepford wife and perhaps the world's worst cook; his genius little brother never speaks but can build laser guns and attract trashy women; and his father (David Ogden Stiers) is convinced Lane is using drugs. Lane's best friend, Charles de Marr (Curtis Armstrong) attempts to inhale everyday substances, like the nitrous oxide in a whipped cream can (known as a whippit) or snow, as if it were cocaine because he "can't even get real drugs here." The film also introduces two Korean drag racing brothers, one of whom learned English by impersonating Howard Cosell.

As Lane attempts to either end his life or win back his ex-girlfriend, he gradually gets to know a new girl: a French foreign-exchange student named Monique (played by Diane Franklin, who also starred in other '80s teen dramedies The Last American Virgin and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure). She is staying with Lane's neighbors across the street, who are so annoying that she pretends she cannot speak English. Monique turns out to be a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers (as she calls them) and is a tough, confident soul. She helps Lane fix up his 1967 Camaro and rekindles Lane's confidence and his will to live through "language lessons" in the international language of love.

The climactic scene involves a ski competition against the ski jock Roy Stalin on a treacherous slope called the K-12. As the two rivals race, a persistent paperboy pursues Cusack, repeating that he wants two dollars that are owed (spawning the catchphrase, "I want my two dollars!"). As Lane races down the mountain on one ski, he overcomes a life gone downhill to find happiness.

Cast



Production

At least some of the skiing scenes were shot at Snowbirdmarker, in Little Cottonwood Canyonmarker, Utah. During the sword fight with ski poles, the word "Mid Gad" is plainly visible on the lift machinery; Mid Gad is a ski lift at Snowbird. Most of the ski scenes were shot at Alta Ski Areamarker; the parking lot is Alta's parking lot. It is widely speculated that many of the "town" scenes of the film were shot in various locations throughout the eastern San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties in California. It appears that many of the scenes were shot in Upland, California. Several scenes were filmed in the city of Burbank, as local landmarks are visible in driving scenes. The film's final scene was shot at Dodger Stadiummarker in Los Angeles, California.

Reception

The film has received positive reviews from critics with an 81% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 21 reviews. The consensus is "Better Off Dead is an anarchic mix of black humor and surreal comedy, anchored by John Cusack's winsome, charming performance." However, according to Savage Steve Holland it was less well received by Cusack, who said after a screening that it "was the worst thing I have ever seen. I will never trust you as a director ever again, so don’t speak to me.” Holland claims that Cusack felt he had been made to look foolish and that his comments "made me not care about movies anymore".

Soundtrack

The film's soundtrack was produced primarily by Rupert Hine.

The opening track, "With One Look (The Wildest Dream)", was produced by Hine and features Cy Curnin and Jamie West-Oram of The Fixx on lead vocals and guitars respectively. Hine had previously worked with Curnin and West-Oram, and also contributed vocals to the song. The following track, "Arrested By You", as well as "Better Off Dub (Title Music)" and "Race The K-12 (Instrumental)" were performed solely by Hine.

"Dancing In Isolation" features Terri Nunn of Berlin on lead vocals. Hine produced the song and was reportedly under consideration to produce an album for Berlin.

"Come To Your Rescue" was performed by Thinkman, a group formed by, and including, Hine for the purpose of restoring his solo career without the music press knowing about it. West-Oram also provided guitar work to this song, as well as the instrumental "The Falcon Beat".

The only two tracks on the CD without Hine's involvement are "A Little Luck" and "One Way Love (Better Off Dead)."[82512] Valley Girl's Elizabeth Daily, credited on the soundtrack as E.G. Daily, sang lead vocals on both songs and also performed them "live" in the film during the high school dance scene.

Track listing

  1. "With One Look (The Wildest Dream)" – 3:26 (written by Torrence Merdur/Rupert Hine)
  2. "Arrested By You" – 5:07 (written by Torrence Merdur/Rupert Hine)
  3. "Shine" – 3:49) (written by Martin Ansell)
  4. "Better Off Dub (Title Music)" – 3:48 (written by Rupert Hine)
  5. "Dancing In Isolation" – 4:04 (written by Torrence Merdur/Rupert Hine)
  6. "Come to Your Rescue" – 5:03 (written by Jeanette Therese Obstoj/Rupert Hine)
  7. "A Little Luck" – 4:21 (written by Angela Rubin)
  8. "The Falcon Beat (Instrumental)" – 2:37 (written by Rupert Hine)
  9. "One Way Love (Better Off Dead)" – 3:33 (written by Steve Goldstein/Duane Hitchings/Craig Krampf/Eric Nelson)
  10. "Race The K-12" – 3:49 (written by Rupert Hine)
  • Tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 produced by Rupert Hine.
  • Tracks 7 and 9 produced by Steve Goldstein.


Songs not included on the soundtrack

  1. Neil Sedaka - "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"
  2. Paul Simon - "Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover"
  3. Hall & Oates - "She's Gone"
  4. Linda Rondstadt - "Hurts So Bad"
  5. Darlene Love - "Winter Wonderland"
  6. The Carpenters - "Here Comes Santa Claus"
  7. Jimi Hendrix - "Foxy Lady"
  8. Van Halen - "Everybody Wants Some!!"
  9. Howard Jones - "Like To Get To Know You Well"
  10. Muddy Waters - "Mannish Boy" (1977 Version)


Rod McKuen's "A Man Alone" (as made famous by Frank Sinatra) is also included in the film, although it is not listed in the credits. Sinatra released at least two recordings of this song. The version in the film is from his Reprise Collection, Disc 3, Track 19.

References

External links




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