Less Than Zero
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The movie's last 30 minutes are like a kick in the gut.
The New York Times
At heart, the film version of Less Than Zero is deeply conventional, with its underlying notion that these young people's lives are ruined because their rich parents neglect them. However, Mr. Kanievska gives it a superficial stylishness that is quite spectacular; every scene revolves around one ingeniously bizarre touch or another (the lighting effects are especially dazzling), and the cumulative effect is as striking as it means to be.
The film glamorizes drug use as much as it condemns it, and the world in which the film is set-Beverly Hills and Malibu-is terminally boring. [6 Nov 1987, p.41]
Despite the obvious talents of the stars-McCarthy is especially arresting-there is an empty feeling that we're taking a tour of a garish ghetto without a tour guide. [6 Nov 1987, p.55]
The performances are standard brat-pack; you could rotate the casts of anything from Risky Business to About Last Night . . . into the picture and it would stay exactly the same. [6 Nov 1987, p.D1]
Only Downey elicits the kind of sympathy to distinguish this drama from a photojournalist essay of the kind that might run in Vanity Fair. Of the secondary roles, James Spader as Downey’s pusher is terrifically smarmy. Unfortunately, this sick relationship doesn’t become involving until the last third of the film, when Downey really begins to fall apart and is forced into male whoring to pay his drug debts. Visually the picture is a treat.
Los Angeles Times
There's a razzly-dazzly beauty in Barbara Ling's designs and Kanievska and cameraman Ed Lachman shoot them wittily. But it's swallowed up in the story's empty outrage.
Marek Kanievska (Another Country) directs with relentlessly fancy visuals in a series of opulent southern California settings; Ed Lachman's cinematography is letter perfect as always in its handling of light and color (assisted here by Barbara Ling's flashy production design), but it's a pity to see it wasted on such claptrap.
TV Guide Magazine
Loosely based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, LESS THAN ZERO refuses to take the risks necessary to capture the keen social observation of the book.
Less Than Zero, an aptly titled tale of snooty California drug snorters, is dumber and duller than primordial ooze. It's one of those silly speed-bumps-in-the-fast-lane laments, though it does have a significant message: Get off the freeway or take the last exit ramp to the Betty Ford Clinic in the sky.
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