Less Than Zero

Growing up in the ’80s meant progressing from John Hughes movies to Bret Easton Ellis, teen exuberance to curdled collegiate experience. This 1987 adaptation of Ellis’ debut novel—written at age 21—is a minor classic of that decade, color-infused with Reaganite excess, coked-up yet prematurely nostalgic. Robert Downey Jr. is a freebasing volcano as the charismatic kid who can’t (or won’t) be helped by his best pal (Andrew McCarthy, still handsome). Jami Gertz is the third leg of the romantic triangle—straightened up from the book, with liberties also taken to the original ending. You could call the film an MTV tragedy, since the cinematography (by Ed Lachman) and direction (by Marek Kanievska) is pure music video—all glamorous surface, never mind the rot beneath. And the movie’s signature song, The Bangles’ turbocharged cover of “Hazy Shade of Winter” (produced by Rick Rubin), is perfect for Ellis’ elegiac tone. After whatever brief flowering of innocence, potential, and romance Downey and company may once have enjoyed, the good times have passed. All there is now is regret—brown leaves and dirty snow, even in Beverly Hills. (R) BRIAN MILLER

July 9-14, 7 & 9:30 p.m., 2009

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