Less Than Zero


Warning: Contains spoilers

Less Than Zero movie poster

Less Than Zero movie poster

Less Than Zero was released in 1987 and is very loosely based off of a novel by Bret Easton Ellis of the same name. The film looks at wealthy life in 1980s Los Angeles and the effects of drug abuse. The film has a 6.1 out of 10 on IMDb and a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes. It is rated R for language, some violence, nudity, sexual content, drug abuse, adult situations, mature themes, and graphic scenes of drug withdrawal.

Clay (Andrew McCarthy), a college freshman, returns home for Christmas, but a lot has changed since he was last in L.A. Clay’s high school girlfriend, Blair (Jami Gertz), and their mutual best friend, Julian (Robert Downey Jr.) are now together and Julian has become a heavy drug user. The reason that Clay came back home was after an insistent request from Blair worrying about Julian because of his drug habit and being hassled by his drug dealer, Rip (James Spader), because of a debt of $50,000. The film focuses on Clay ending up back with Blair and the both of them trying to help Julian clean his act up.

I love watching movies from the 80’s and had always wanted to see this film, so when I saw it was on HBO one day, I jumped at the chance to finally see it. This movie, like I mentioned at the beginning, is based off of a novel. I haven’t read the novel, so I can’t really compare it to the film. I’ve only read American Psycho and The Rules of Attraction, both by Bret Easton Ellis, and I’ve seen the movies based off those books. However, even though I haven’t read the book, I did read in a article that Bret Easton Ellis didn’t like the film very well and that the film is very different than the book.

Happier days...before drug abuse. (From Left: Julian, Blair, and Clay.)

Happier days…before drug abuse.
(From Left: Julian, Blair, and Clay.)

After watching this movie, I did like it, but at the same time it isn’t going to be a movie I watch all the time, like other movies from the 80’s that I like a lot. I thought the acting was alright, but with the exceptions of Robert Downey Jr. and James Spader. They were both pretty good. Robert Downey Jr. really knocks it out of the park with this one. This film shows really well what can and will happen if someone becomes a drug addict. The character of Julian ends up dying in the end. Even though you get the feeling that something bad is going to happen to Julian, it still is a bit of a shock when he actually dies. The other “scary” thing about this film is that Robert Downey Jr. has said that the role of Julian “was like the Ghost of Christmas Future.” If you are unaware, RDJ became involved with drugs and ended up getting arrested multiple times on drug related charges. So, to look at how Julian ends up in the end and to think that if RDJ had not cleaned up his act, there is a chance he would no longer be here.

I think it’s safe to say that I would definitely suggest this movie. It’s interesting to see RDJ in his younger days (I haven’t seen too many movies of his back when he was younger) and to see how life almost imitated art. If you like 80’s movies, especially ones that include members of the “Brat Pack“, then give this movie a shot.