Less Than Zero (1987)
Dir. Marek Kanievska
Starring: Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, Robert Downey, Jr., James Spader
Jami Gertz had a similar pedigree (and is actually mentioned by psycho Patrick Bateman in the novel American Psycho ), appearing in The Lost Boys and John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles as well as one of the era’s ('the era' = from the dawn of time until the present day) worst movies, the sci-fi/rollerskating drama Solarbabies.
Although Less Than Zero tones down some of the features of the novel (notably the homosexuality) and reduces the story into something more linear, the atmosphere of 80s drug-fuelled decadence is captured perfectly, and in fact heightened by some of the film’s worst aspects; like the glossy, empty stylistic cheesiness (the McCarthy/Gertz sex scene in particular, is spectacularly dated), the lamely staged night clubs and the TV movie-esque incidental music. The DefJam records soundtrack on the other hand (featuring LL Cool J, The Bangles, Poison, Slayer and Roy Orbison(!)) is mostly excellent, if equally dated, making Less Than Zero an imperfect but strangely immersive viewing experience.
If McCarthy and Gertz are adequate, Robert Downey Jr gives a performance as the self-destructive cocaine addict Julian that was at the time, revelatory (his movie career to date had featured one leading role and a couple of smaller appearances, all as cocky, cheerful teenagers) and unfortunately proved to be prophetic. James Spader excels too, as slimy drug dealer Rip, one of many obnoxious yuppies he was to play in his early career.