Movie Review #927

Nationwide release on March 31, 1989. Comedy/Crime/Drama. This film is rated R. Runs 103 minutes. American production. Director: Michael Lehmann. Written by: Daniel Waters. Cast: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Liane Falk, and Kim Walker.


By Alexander Diminiano

“Heathers” is as new a teen movie today as it was in 1989.  It’s John Hughes meets “Desperately Seeking Susan” meets the entire film-noir genre.  And no, it’s not a light little slice-of-life comedy.  It’s a dark, dark, dark, heavy drama, and by satirizing all its darkness, it’s an even darker comedy.

Our story is genius, and for much of the movie, it’s absolutely hilarious.  Winona Ryder plays Veronica, a classless girl who joins a trio of popular girls who are all named Heather.  Let’s be clear that these are not her friends.  She wants to belong to a clique, as everyone else does.  She only ends up hating the three Heathers more than anything else in the world.  She teams up with her new boyfriend, a dark, mysterious rebel named Jason Dean (Christian Slater)–a more-than-obvious nod to James Dean and his character in “Rebel without a Cause”.  If only Veronica weren’t so smitten with this guy.  He talks her so easily into a most serious way of getting back at her “friends”: murder, staged as suicide.

The point of “Heathers” is to caricature gossipy high school drama.  Murder is first seen as early as ten minutes through the movie, so it doesn’t exactly hesitate to blow all this nastiness out of proportion.  For quite some time, you’d have trouble denying it’s a classic.  Murder and suicide are not funny, but of course a director has the power to twist that established truth for a good two hours.  Michael Lehmann does it with a wicked smirk across his face.

The movie is politically incorrect on many, many levels, and quite shamelessly so.  That’s why it works initially, but later on, it’s why it crashes.  The final third of “Heathers” does not hold up well at all.  I can’t say I’d be surprised if this was, in fact, the best part of the movie back in 1989.  Perhaps back then, it wasn’t exactly too much to depict a student’s bombing of his own school as comedy.  But after Columbine, and more than 70 other similar tragedies since, the intended satire in the last portion of “Heathers” couldn’t be more offensive.