“Better Off Dead…” (1985) – This teen comedy cult-classic features John Cusack – in his second leading role – as Lane, an ordinary Los Angeles kid who does not cope very well after his girlfriend dumps him. He only sees one way out: suicide. The premise does not seem like a winning formula for laughs, but writer/director Savage Steve Holland packs mountains of oddball gags, quips and characters that underscore and overscore the ridiculous nature of our high school years.
“Better Off Dead…” feels like John Hughes wrote the script during a week-long binge of weed and laughing gas, and by the way, that’s a compliment. Holland balances all kinds of adolescent chaos with a sweet courtship between Lane and a French exchange student named Monique (Diane Franklin), and the latter supports the film’s humanity and extends its broad Gen X appeal.
Curtis Armstrong – famously known as Booger from “Revenge of the Nerds” (1984) – makes a memorable and kooky co-pilot for Lane on his journey, which includes repeated run-ins with a determined paperboy who demands his two dollars!
Image credits: Warner Bros., Trailer credits: MaryShelley1935