|Title: The Heathers|
|Genre: Black Comedy|
|Director: Michael Lehmann|
|Writer: Daniel Waters|
|Actors: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater|
|Elements: High school, suicide|
A deliciously nasty black comedy, Heathers is set at a cliquish high school in Ohio. The most exclusive of those cliques is the Heathers, comprised of the prettiest and most popular girls in town. The group’s leader is the manipulative Kim Walker, who orchestrates the humiliation of anyone who fails to meet her standards. Eventually, Heathers member Winona Ryder begins to exhibit a conscience; together with her hardcase boyfriend Christian Slater, Ryder plots to avenge all the unfortunate victims of the group.
Talk of the Heathers movie has recently resurfaced as the musical launched on Broadway. This being a 26 year old movie, there will be spoilers for this review. You’ve been warned.
What exactly is the Heathers? Bring constantly brought up in Mean Girls discussions, which is quite possibly the movie of my generation, it seems to be just that: the movie of the 80s teen generation.
But of course, there’s more to a movie than just that label. Intrigued by the Mean Girls comparison, and expecting it to not live up to the comparison, I set out to explore what exactly the Heathers is all about.
Sharp, a little biting, yet somewhat weathered with age, it impressed me not with the main cast of high school permanent fixtures. While the social commentary is still there, the movie impressed me with its main focus: the dysfunctional romance between Veronica and JD.
This is an abusive romance done right, by which I mean it doesn’t condone abusive romances by giving viewers a bullshit ending about it all being ~true love~ and Veronica and JD living happily ever after together, or an ending where Veronica pines for JD. There clearly wasn’t going to be a happy ending for Veronica–and I’m wary enough to believe in JD’s intelligence and abilities to get out of scrapes despite his trigger happy self. Despite what Twilight might have shown, having someone confess to loving and wanting to kill you is not romantic.
Bravery and self-confidence is not a problem for this teen, and we meet Veronica as she’s at her wit’s end with the Heathers. The execution of the latter half of the movie shows Veronica’s self-survival instincts to its best. Already on survival mode as she navigates being hazed in preparation for full acceptance into the school’s most popular clique, Veronica doesn’t hesitate to show viewers and the clique exactly what she thinks of hazing the less popular students.
It’s odd–everything I’ve heard about the Heathers points to the perils of being in high school rather than the major killing spree that both Veronica and JD were on, which, accidental or not, they then went on to disguise as suicides. As the unwilling party to the murders, Veronica quickly realises that she’s in a relationship with a psychopath. Her struggle to come to terms with being in love with a murderer almost drives her to the brink, though she handles it brilliantly on the outside.
Both Ryder and Slater are the standout acts in this movie, Slater in particular for bringing a boyish charm to JD. Employing a different actor for JD’s role might have broken the impact of the movie, for JD is the centerpiece of the movie.
I don’t think I would have been sold on the film it is wasn’t for Ryder’s Veronica. Despite the love that Veronica has for JD, even in the film’s last few climactic scenes, her levelheadedness in getting rid of a murderer and handling her attraction to him is one to be admired. There are so many movies nowadays portraying people giving in to their baser instincts without stopping to think, that it’s refreshing to watch a movie where the main character has her priorities right and her head on straight.