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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe not a perfect adaptation of the book, but hard hitting
Though most reviewers commented on their disppointment that this movie missed the mark 1000% when it came to adapting the novel by Ellis to the big screen, I believe if you view this film as a message movie for the ages where drugs and excess are concerned, then you will be quite impressed. If not for Robert Downey Jr. and James Spaders' performances, however, the other...
Published on March 30, 2003 by frisky2000

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Based on the book by Bret Easton Ellis"? Well, sort of.
What can I say about this uninspired "retelling" of Bret's first novel?

The film adaptation doesn't contain the scenes and the tone I thought made the book so haunting and memorable.(The dead boy in the alley scene, the snuff film with the underage girl...) This film really can't be claimed that it is based on the book - it's more that it's inspired by the...
Published on July 30, 2009 by R. Plant


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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maybe not a perfect adaptation of the book, but hard hitting, March 30, 2003
By 
frisky2000 (Forever Summer) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Less Than Zero [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Though most reviewers commented on their disppointment that this movie missed the mark 1000% when it came to adapting the novel by Ellis to the big screen, I believe if you view this film as a message movie for the ages where drugs and excess are concerned, then you will be quite impressed. If not for Robert Downey Jr. and James Spaders' performances, however, the other actors could not have carried the message with such brutal force. Julian is a wreck of an addict, distraught over family issues, wild eyed with crazy drug induced moods, not really making it in school, and his circle of friends, male and female, are his only salvation. At the same time, they are his downfall, for Julian slides effortlessly into the glamorous world of sex, clubs and drugs with his friends right by his side. This picture came out in the eighties, when JUST SAY NO was on everyone's lips, and the dangers of "recreational" drug use were not exposed as vividly. Watching Julian's descent into hell feels like a punch in your chest, and the ending, though some may have seen it coming, shook me up considerably, having known a person with a similar fate back in my '80's high school days. Of course this film is not classic filmmaking or even original storytelling, but I think showing it to impressionable teens at an early age might not be a bad idea. And how accurately did art mirror life when, in the 1990's, Downey Jr. nearly killed himself getting high on everything under the sun. This film was not a far stretch for him.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I don't care what the others say!, May 25, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Less Than Zero [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I've both read this book and seen this movie. They're right who say it doesn't follow the book in "plot" (but then again if you read the book you'd realize it was one of those good books like "Catcher in the Rye" without a real "plot"- which wouldn't make too good a movie now would it?). This is a moving movie and the acting is brilliant most of the time, especially from Robert Downey Jr. He plays the part of the hopeless junky so well that it's almost eerie sometimes. Jamie Gertz did a good job playing the hypocritical yet caring friend who makes it her mission in life to protect the Downey Jr. character. And Andrew McCarthy puts off just the right mixture of depth of feeling and the detachment of an outsider who's been away for too long. The casting was great and they did what they could to make this a good movie, and succeeded. It was real, scary, intelligent, and suspensful. Watch it!
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a great showcase for Robert Downey Jr.'s talents, October 30, 2000
This review is from: Less Than Zero [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I haven't yet read the novel, but I have heard of all the lashings both critics and Bret Easton Ellis alike have thrown at the film version of "Less Than Zero." It's nothing new when Hollywood takes liberties with a good book (Kubrick's hack-job with "The Shining" is an ideal example), and very rarely do adaptations hit the screen flawlessly.
Well, that being said, I must say that "Less Than Zero" is one of my favorite movies at the moment, not because of its commitment to the source material but as an affecting tale of addiction among the jaded and ruined of the L.A. club scene circa 1987. Clay (Andrew McCarthy) returns home for Christmas to see his friends Blair and Julian (Jami Gertz & Downey, Jr.) and finds them immersed in the ruins of drugged-out living. The movie is basically his attempts to tag after and save Julian from himself before he--duh--gets in too deep.
The recent troubles in Robert Downey Jr.'s personal life make his portrayal of the drugged-out Julian all the more resonant and convincing. "Less Than Zero" is really his movie, and he shines in spite of the grunge his character is pulled through. Andrew McCarthy is well-cast as the heroic, boyishly handsome Clay. Jami Gertz does well, but her appeal as a sex symbol must have lived and died in the 1980s: she shows capable acting ability, but it's hard to watch her monstrous facial expressions. In a supporting role, James Spader is typically excellent as a sleazy drug dealer.
Some have said the film is hollow and lacks the spirit of Ellis' novel, but I'm not in a position to say. Judging "Less Than Zero" only by the movie alone, I would have to reply with nothing but enthusiasm. It's a drama that doesn't manipulatively pull at the viewer's heartstrings with cliche, but instead is honest about its subject and as a result, more genuine.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seedy LA circa 80's, September 27, 2004
This review is from: Less Than Zero (DVD)
First off I have to say this is one of my favorite films. However I'd be lying to say it was anything like the book. For instance in the book Clay is an emotionless empty void who more than occasionally takes drugs and never really finds fulfillment or contentness by the end one can't really feel sympathy for him in the novel. The film gave him more of a soul with some direction in life which one can sympathize with. The book has more characters that weave in and out of the story. The movie seemed to focus more on Julian (Downey Jr) & his decent into addiction. I'm one of those people who actually liked the movie a little more than the novel. What I liked about this film for one the cinematography was outstanding really went with the mood of the film. It made you want to see what the scene was like in LA in the 80's besides the drugs there was a lot of energy. Overall I thought the acting was good. James Spader's portrayal of money hungry drug dealer Rip was flawless. Downey Jr really caught the essence of a drug addict I thought.In short synopsis Clay (Andrew McCarthy) comes back to Hollywood -LA after attending school back east in New England College. He comes back to his coke addicted girlfriend Blair ( Gertz) & messed up best friend Julian (R Downey Jr) who has a drug addiction the size of Utah after his dreams of owning a record label collapse. Clay notices nothing has really changed around here but Julian is going down the tubes faster everyday. He owes the local drug dealer Rip major amount of money. Clay tries desperately to help them out and bring them back to school with him. One of best films in 80's cinema. A lot of people bagged on this film because they say it didn't accurately represent the book. I think it wasn't meant to be just like the book. But it's one of those movies that brings you right there as if your living it for the hour & a half that your watching it good dark drama film. Check out my book review also.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Based on the book by Bret Easton Ellis"? Well, sort of., July 30, 2009
This review is from: Less Than Zero (DVD)
What can I say about this uninspired "retelling" of Bret's first novel?

The film adaptation doesn't contain the scenes and the tone I thought made the book so haunting and memorable.(The dead boy in the alley scene, the snuff film with the underage girl...) This film really can't be claimed that it is based on the book - it's more that it's inspired by the novel. Despite this downfall, the film is worth watching for any Bret Easton Ellis fan - if only to satisfy one's curiosity.

The film contains neither the perfectly depressing one-liners or the delightfully disturbing minor characters that make the book so interesting and engaging (Clay's sisters, Spin) The film made it seem as though Julian was the protagonist, while I always felt the novel was all about seeing the events unfold through Clay's eyes. One of the more endearing parts of the novel are Clay's 'flashbacks' of a better time, before he left for school. The film only touches on this in the beginning, and the flashback is about Blair, not about his parents, who which were the subjects of the flashbacks I found the most interesting. The lunch scene between Clay and his father is pure genius. The detachment between the father and son made me physically cringe. This scene is not included in the film at all.

The unfortunate thing about adapting films from books is that something is almost always lost in the 'translation'. 'American Psycho' is really the only one of the films adapted from his books that I feel captures the tone of the book while simultaneously compacting it into a watchable narrative without losing Bret's style, and this is due to the fact that Bateman himself is the narrator.

All and all, 'Less Than Zero' isn't a bad film, really. Just a bad adaptation. It captures what was both awesome and forgettable about 80s popular film, and fits the bill of any entertaining teen drama from that era (Including extravagant cocaine use by minors, too much New Wave, the once-hot but potential future star of Where Are They Now? James Spader). There are some touching moments, but it seems as though the film tried to hard find a conclusion the book didn't (and had a reason for not doing). After all, Julian doesn't die in the novel, and Blair certainly doesn't go back to Camden with Clay (Morrissey wouldn't be proud).

What's so melancholy about the novel is what the film failed to allude too: how upset, apathetic, nd lost Clay is now that he has changed and gained a new perspective, while his friends, sadly, have not.

And one serious complaint: Where is the Disappear Here billboard? It's integral to the imagery of the novel, and is absent in the film (unless I missed it.)

All and all: If you're a fan of Bret's books, give this film a shot. It's worth watching once, but don't be upset if it hardly even attempts to capture the mood or purpose of the novel.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good movie, bad adaptation., October 21, 2004
This review is from: Less Than Zero (DVD)
Let me say first that this movie, in and of itself, is a very good eighties film. However, it is nothing compared to the book, and it is also NOTHING like the book except for the fact that everyone's doing coke, and there are generally the same names for the characters. Also, in the book, Clay is doing just as much horse as everyone else, while in the movie, he is totally against it. Most of the scenarios in the movie are not present in the book at all. There is no tension between Clay and Julian over the girl, only one involving money. So if you just want a great movie to watch, this is it, but if you're an Ellis fan looking to watch a decent adaptation of your favourite book, this certainly won't do.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Visually Compelling Tale Of Self Destruction., February 18, 2002
By 
Hillary (Brooklyn, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Less Than Zero [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The most striking element that will "hook" you into watching this Bret Easton Ellis novel adaption of the same name, is the captivating visual beauty of the sets and cinematography. There are also two fine performances from two great actors.

Robert Downey Jr. gives a highly realistic performance as Julian, a hopeless junkie spiraling rapidly into oblivion before the eyes of his best friend Clay, played by Andrew McCarthy, and his on again, off again borderline coke-head gal-pal model, Blair(Jami Gertz). After Clay returns home from school, he's found that Julian has bedded his girl, and that being away has changed where he fits into this new drug addled scene. Despite this glaring breach of friendships, Clay plays the good egg who tries to keep both parties from self destruction.

The perpetually bug-eyed McCarthy seems strangely detached and unemotional in his role, while Jami Gertz, whom I usually find interesting, seems one dimensional and stiff. The award here goes to the talented Robert Downey Jr. as Julian. In this film he puts out a sincerely gut-wrenching performance. I once read that he said he WASN't acting, and that WAS how he is in real life. Is the fact or the fiction stranger? You must watch this and find out.

My favorite actor in general, as well as in this movie, is the great James Spader. I've seen just about everything he's ever been in, and he is no disappointment here. He turns in a fabulous performance as Trent, a ruthless drug dealer who has Julian under his thumb. When Julian gets in over his head and can't pay for his increasing habit, Trent is appropriately loathesome and cruel as he pimps Julian to earn his keep. The degradation he is put through escalates as Blair and Clay try to save him. James Spader and Robert Downey Jr. also worked beautifully together in the wonderful teen love story "Tuff Turf" in 1985. (See my review for more).

The other important reason to view this film, is that it's truly beautiful in the visual aspect. We see California wealth illustrated in moving pictures of bright technicolor. Vividly sparkling blue swimming pools, elegant mansions with colorful manicured gardens and sprawling lawns too. Everyone looks like a fashion model who just stepped out of a glossy magazine. The parties are replete with debauched debutantes in crystal mirrored bathrooms holding their coke-bloody noses. Watching this film is a guilty pleasure we must all experience vicariously.

Although it can be somewhat depressing at times, especially toward the end, I STILL enjoy it. The film also features a killer soundtrack that captures the era perfectly. These elements serve to elevate a minimally flawed script, and make this a visually arresting piece of gorgeous celluloid eye candy that needs to seen and sampled, even if you don't always like the taste of the rest.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glamorous and Gritty, November 11, 2002
By 
This review is from: Less Than Zero (DVD)
Wow...like a time warp to the late 80's..!
When I saw this flick for the first time (about 10 years ago) I thought that it overly glamorized drug-use...this time when I saw it (on the fabulous DVD Transfer!) I thought it was really pretty sad. Especially the way the parents interacted with the kids.
GREAT in the 80's...GREAT NOW...for very different reasons.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is this supposed to be an adaptation?, June 3, 2000
This review is from: Less Than Zero [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This could have been an excellent movie, and perhaps if you haven't read the book it is. However, I read the book and expected a certain depth out of the characters and got nothing. This doesn't even follow the same plot as the book, if anything is a very, very loosely based adaptation of the book. I really can't understand why the writers changed it so much. The book does have a plot, and is more focused on the character of Clay than that of Julian. If anything, Julian is a sideshow in the book, yet he is in nearly every scene of the movie. The friendship between Blair, Clay, and Julian is highly embellished in this movie, wasn't such a focal point in the book. I am really disappointed, because there were so many good lines in the book (People are afraid to merge on the freeways in Los Angeles, for one) that should have made it to the screen. I'd recommend the book over the movie. Despite that, Andrew McCarthy and Robert Downey Jr. give outstanding performances. (What the heck happened to Andrew McCarthy, anyway?)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Downey's performance MAKES 'Less Than Zero' into something compelling and watchable., May 1, 2008
This review is from: Less Than Zero (DVD)
It is not quite the compliment it may sound to say that Robert Downey Jr. steals every scene in LESS THAN ZERO (even the ones he's not in). His co-stars in this botched film version of the infamous Bret Easton Ellis novel are Andrew McCarthy and Jami Gertz, both of whom so completely embody their characters' blankness that they leave two voids at the center of the story. Downey could mistakenly be judged to have walked off with the acting honors by default, the easiest victory since Theresa Russell (in a very similar role) wrested THE RAZOR'S EDGE away from Bill Murray and Catherine Hicks. This, however, would be to severely underrate Downey's careful recreation of a life out of control. An accident waiting to happen, Downey's Julian roars with the painful last gasp of a party boy for whom time is running out. Lying upside down in McCarthy's red convertible, singing screwed-up Christmas carols as they cruise L.A. after dark, Downey portrays the side of drug use that the "Just Say No" folks most dread: It's fun to be high (that is, until it's not). Despite the screenplay's watered-down insistence that Downey and McCarthy are competing for the favors of Gertz's character, Downey instead slyly plays his part like it's torn from the scorched pages of the novel, where the two boys are lovers, not just friends. It's a bold choice that brings his character to vivid life: In addition to all the other emotional ravages he evokes, he shows us with his panicky, sad eyes that he knows he's losing McCarthy to Gertz. Not that all of this aspect of his character is in the subtext; to pay his debts off to his dealer Rip (James Spader), Julian acts as a prostitute for Rip's other male clients.

In his absurdly cheerful holiday shirt, the incorrigible Julian offers us the flip side of those too-neat TV movie plots about parents practicing "tough love" on their addict children; seen here from the helplessly self-destructive kid's point of view, the familiar tale is unbearably painful to watch. But Downey's energetic charisma keeps us from looking away, even when he takes us into the horror show of what it looks like when Julian overdoses. Downey makes us care how Julian, cut off by his family and hunted by his creditors, lives before he dies.

In the film's most resonant image, the sweating, shell-shocked Julian is feeling so like a cornered animal that even the reflections off a swimming pool take on the appearance of bars that entrap him. He won't, can't, go inside to a Christmas party: "I feel like Tiny f---in' Tim," he says, so despondent that it's clear he knows no help will come, although he never stops lying outwardly. "It's not going to happen again, this; it's over," he'll tell anyone who'll listen, and Downey gives just the right hollow cadence to this automatic lie that fools no one. "I'm gonna probably go back into rehab." Downey conveys the physical hysteria of the hopeless addict with equal finesse. Long after the movie is over, one is haunted by the scene of Downey alone (his pals are doing Christmas dinner with their dysfunctional families), doing a lonely little soft-shoe routine. Simple, understated, unforgettable. It is a sublime moment.

It has been said that Downey's take on Julian was probably a case of life imitaing art. Perhaps. . . But that only makes the performance much more astonishing. Plenty of Hollywood's elite have tried their hands at the same type of role and come up wanting, even though they too were "living the role in real life." (Patty Duke in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS anyone?)
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Less Than Zero
Less Than Zero by Marek Kanievska (DVD - 2009)
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