HEATHERS: Does it hold up?

I couldn’t get any work done yesterday because my nerves were freaking shot. So it seemed like a great day to watch an old movie. PRETTY IN PINK was meant to be next, but I saw a meme on FB that featured a photo of Winona Ryder at the end of HEATHERS (post explosion, smoking a cigarette and covered in soot) as “voting in 2018” and it felt like a sign.

Mean girls in high school. *sigh* It wasn’t a tired premise in 1988. Or maybe it was and I was too young to notice. But it certainly feels tired now. Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) has compromised her ethics to become part of the most popular clique in school. Heather Chandler (one of three Heathers and the leader of the group) takes Veronica to a college party to see if she’s good enough to hang in their clique. Veronica pukes on Heather’s shoes, so Heather vows to socially ruin her.


Jason “JD” Dean (Christian Slater as Jack Nicholson) is the new kid in school. He’s a sexy rebel with a Zippo and a gun. He and Veronica play strip-croquet after her disastrous night at the party.


Then Veronica and JD go on a murdering spree, though Veronica is a reluctant accomplice. Perhaps even an unwitting accomplice, but she’s supposed to be intelligent so that doesn’t really make all that much sense because it’s really easy for JD to repeatedly trick her. They make all of the murders look like suicides. Veronica has a special talent for forging handwriting, so it’s simple to write suicide notes. And to their credit, they only murder jerks.


I watched this movie with my friend Kristen 412 times in junior high. We could recite the entire thing and did recite it often. Perhaps too often, though that is subjective. I was really excited to revisit this film.

This is one of my favorite Wynona Ryder performances, second only to Joyce in STRANGER THINGS.


HEATHERS introduced one of the best lines in movie history: “What’s your damage, Heather?” Honestly it’s full of brilliant quips.


Veronica wears a monocle when she writes in her journal. Maybe because I lived in Arkansas, I don’t remember that being the fashion. Blazers with shoulder pads, sure. But not monocles.  There are a lot of pretty adorable skirt and tights combinations as well as cute shoes. Geez, did you guys dress like junior executives in high school? I did, but mostly because I had an after-school job at a bank. When my daughter puts on her sweat pants every day, it takes everything I have not to say, “in my day, we wore dresses to school and we liked it!”

The background music is synthesizer-tastic. The shoulder pads are the size of throw pillows. And the hair is so stiff it seems to have rigor mortis.

The popular jock boys gay-bash a boy because he’s a “geek”. There’s also a scene where Veronica and JD are setting up the jock boys to look like homosexuals, and JD chooses things like a candy dish and mineral water to help with framing them. I guess it’s not technically hateful, but certainly inaccurate. And after the boys are dead, their parents accept their faux homosexuality in an emotional breakthrough which is a nice surprise for 1988.

Throughout the film, the Heathers are awful to an overweight girl. I don’t know if teens are still like that. I really hope they aren’t. And the “suicide epidemic” has done seemingly nothing to make most of these kids kinder to one another. The exception being Veronica, who knows that the deaths weren’t caused by suicide.


I enjoyed this movie a lot more before I knew how much high school really sucked. Now it kind of aggravates my PTSD. I don’t like reminders of the days of frenemies. I hate that most girls fight over stupid shit like boys and popularity. I hate that a lot women don’t learn to stick together until they’re older, and some of us not even then.


This movie held up better in the days before MEAN GIRLS. It’s tough not to draw comparisons, and MEAN GIRLS is the more solid of the two. Mainly because of the three Heathers, only Heather McNamara reveals genuine vulnerability. And all three Plastics have softer sides that give us some clues to their motivations.


Strange fact: One of the most famous lines from Heather Chandler (Kim Walker) was “Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?” Kim Walker died of a brain tumor in 2001 at the age of 32.


I really wanted HEATHERS to hold up.  The dialogue is clever, and the plot is engaging though flawed. But it sort of glamorizes popularity through malice as a powerful tool. And the popular girls use their bodies as social currency. I’m not adding it to the list of movies that I want to watch with my kids in a few years.

Does it hold up? I’m going with no on this one. But I will preserve it fondly in my memory as time spent with my friend Kristen.



THE LOST BOYS: Does it hold up?

Welcome to the first post in my Does it Hold Up? series. Since the world is currently a shit sandwich, I’m revisiting beloved movies of days gone by to see if they hold up to today’s standards and expectations. I’m starting with 1987’s THE LOST BOYS, a movie that I watched at least a dozen times between the ages of 12 and 18.

Did anyone know that Ted Cruz is in this movie? He’s the guy in the very first scene who punches his girlfriend in the face while trying to keep sexy vampire Keifer Sutherland from touching her cheek, since being touched by sexy vampire David is so much worse than a punch from a creepy politician. (I know it’s not really him, you guys. But I can pretend if I want to.)


The set-up is translatable to today.  A single mother (Dianne Wiest) and her two sons (Jason Patric and Corey Haim) move in with her eccentric and cool AF dad so she can save money. I mean, struggling single moms have been around since the beginning of time (looking at you, Mary).

About 10 minutes in there’s a strong 80’s marker: a greasy man with a ponytail and codpiece playing the fuck out of a saxophone.


But then Jami Gertz appears and everything’s magical. Timeless beauty, man.


While we’re on the topic of beauty, how pretty were the vampires back then? *swoon*


And let me take a moment to pay my respects to the two Coreys. I preferred Haim (RIP) over Feldman back in my Tiger Beat days, but I would have made out with either one of them.


Not a comment on timeliness, but Jason Patric has his shoes on his white sheets and pillowcase like a GD monster!


Most, but not all, of the soundtrack is dated.

Though the fashion is dated, it’s still sexy as hell. I’m normally a just-say-no-to-mullets kinda lady, but I don’t hate this bleached bloodsucking-punk rock mullet.


Jason Patric was clearly in a Jim Morrison phase, and there are other nods to Morrison and the Doors in the film, including the Echo and the Bunnymen cover of “People Are Strange” at the beginning and end. The Doors don’t currently hold the cultural respect that they did in the 80’s. Of course, we had no way of knowing in 1987 that the Doors would lose their status as icons to suburban stoner kids, but we probably should have seen it coming.

The treatment of women isn’t date-rapey like in too many films of this era. Star (Jami Gertz) does have the damsel in distress thing going on. But it’s not old school Disney princess level helplessness. And she wields a big wooden stake before it’s all over.

The humor holds up, and I had forgotten that Corey Haim had solid comedic timing.

The most cringe-worthy 80’s thing about this movie is the music, though a couple of songs are fine. There are too many synthesizers and saxophones the majority of the time. The humor isn’t racist or ableist like a lot of old movies. And the women aren’t portrayed like mindless sex dolls.

Does it hold up? Yes. Yes it does.