Less Than Zero is also a motion picture released in 1987.
The novel, if you are a purist is the better of the two. The characters are more fleshed out, there are more of them, Clay is much more interesting, the love story of Blair & Clay doesn’t have the happy Hollywood ending, and Julian is hooked on heroin not coke.
For my purposes, nothing will compare to the movie.
It stars Robert Downey Jr in a performance that would end up mimicking much of his 20’s and 30’s. He was a man born to excess, with a drug habit unable to stay clean. Jack Nicholson has made himself a legend for playing himself in every character on screen, Robert Downey Jr gets Iron Man….I am not totally sure there is justice in that.
The female lead is Jamie Gertz, she’s not a very good actress, but this was a role that Molly Ringwald could not have pulled off with her adorable red hair and freckles. The character Blair, is a self centered coke whore/model/actress as so many are in LA (model/actress…I don’t know that so many do cocaine) and while Molly may be a better actress, I don’t know that anyone would have bought America’s Sweetheart, as Blair.
Andrew McCarthy plays Clay. The boy who got away to college, to come home for Christmas break, a mere 4 short months after the trio of friends had graduated to find that he was altered, they were altered, and faced for the first time the reality that money shields many people from, life is a bitch.
It’s 1987 in Beverly Hills California and everyone is skinny, wealthy and White. The trio mentioned above are bestest friends while @ Beverly Hills High. Clay is the only one who leaves for college. He leaves behind his girlfriend Blair, in the care of his best friend Julian, returns home during Thanksgiving break to find the two of them doing the horizontal mambo.
A phone call from Blair, the woman he still loves, convinces him to come home for Christmas break…Julian needs help.
Like everyone else in the 80’s the supporting cast and day players are all skinny & wealthy & White, and Clay walks back in feeling out of place. He envisions a different life for himself, one with more substance than wealthy kids partying 7 nights a week and blowing their trust funds on handbags and cocaine.
It is implied that while in high school Andrew was just like the rest of them, but that he has a sense of maturity they do not because he got out of the bubble of Beverly Hills.
What you get right away from the moment he enters stage left, Julian is in deeper than everyone around him.
The beautiful people progress through the next 90 minutes, only Julian doesn’t stay beautiful. His addiction has him banished from his parents home because he steals, sleeping on the beach because he is essentially homeless, in the hole 50,000 to the drug dealer – James Spader, character name Rip.
Blair & Clay get their sexy back as a couple, Julian sinks further into his addiction as he is fed by Rip.
The movie turns into the race to save Julian from himself, that you want to succeed. You watch him struggle with being moral and ‘clean’ and then throw it all away because the craving is too deep. You figure out why eventually when the crack pipe appears in the movie.
Towards the end of the movie Julian hits bottom – when Rip pimps him out to work off his debt – he sells Julian’s ass to other men. Yes men. You watch a majestic performance from Downey as he detoxes with both Blair and Clay @ his side, and clean for 3 whole days determines that he is ready to stay clean.
Your heart breaks as he tries to cross the bridges of his life to find only that he has burned them all. Alone he makes a last attempt to appeal to the humanity of his pimp and supplier to find that money changes everything.
Clay makes a last attempt to save him, pulling him out of a suite and off a john. The 3 Musketeers ride back towards LA but one falls during the trip home.
The book and the movie are very different. But then again every Hollywood production has to have some sort of happy ending. It was the movie that impacted me the most though…and in a day or so I will explain how and why.