35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
a great showcase for Robert Downey Jr.'s talents,
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.