Friday, December 02, 2005


From the Vault: Heathers

Dark comedy is a strange thing. What might strike one person as hysterically funny another may find just plain sick. There may be no better illustration of this fine line than Heathers, a very good film that can offend some just by a vague description of its plot.

Heathers stars Winona Ryder as Veronica, the only non-Heather member of a four-person clique at an upper-income high school. Veronica isn't like the other Heathers, who dress well and terrorize "the inferior" of their high school. Veronica has the look, but not the psyche of a snob.

Enduring the cruelty of the other Heathers, especially leader Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), Veronica begins to write awful thoughts in her diary. Soon, Veronica meets J.D. (Christian Slater), who dresses in black and carries a gun to school to frighten elitist jocks. J.D. fascinates Veronica and she begins seeing him, despite the other Heathers' ridicule.

One night, Heather Chandler forces Veronica to go to a party at a nearby college where Veronica fights off the advances of drunken frat guys and ends up puking on Heather's shoes. Heather promises to tell everyone at school about the escapade, once she gets over her own hangover — which J.D. and Veronica decide to help her with, resulting in Heather's death. To protect themselves, Veronica and J.D. make Heather's death look like a suicide and that is where the plot plunges into the darkest topic of its jet black humor — teen suicide.

While suicide isn't ordinarily considered a laughing matter, the film's angle on it works. It succeeds, sometimes hilariously, sometimes poignantly, at showing the hypocrisy and stupidity of how people react to suicide. Heathers hits its satirical targets dead on. Suicide, which Veronica describes as "teen angst bullshit with a body count," cliques and parental relationships all become sources of humor under the movie's microscope.

Ryder does an excellent job as Veronica and Slater, once you get used to his pseudo-Jack Nicholson performance, is good as well. Heathers is not for everyone, but for those with a taste for satire and humor with a macabre edge, it shouldn't be missed.

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