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Less Than Zero (1987)

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A college freshman returns to L.A. for the holidays at his ex-girlfriend's request, but discovers that his former best friend has an out-of-control drug habit.

Director:

Marek Kanievska

Writers:

Bret Easton Ellis (novel), Harley Peyton (screenplay)
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Popularity
3,699 ( 850)
1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Andrew McCarthy ... Clay
Jami Gertz ... Blair
Robert Downey Jr. ... Julian
James Spader ... Rip
Tony Bill ... Bradford Easton
Nicholas Pryor ... Benjamin Wells
Donna Mitchell ... Elaine Easton
Michael Bowen ... Hop
Sarah Buxton ... Markie
Lisanne Falk ... Patti
Michael Greene ... Robert Wells
Neith Hunter Neith Hunter ... Alana
Afton Smith ... Kim
Brian Wimmer ... Trent
Kelly Wolf Kelly Wolf ... Lile
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Storyline

Clay, an eighteen-year-old freshman, comes back from his first term at Princeton to spend his Christmas vacation with his broken-up wealthy family in Los Angeles. His former girlfriend, Blair, is now involved with his ex-best-friend, Julian. She warns Clay that Julian needs help: he is using a lot of cocaine and has huge debts. What follows is a look at the youth culture of wealthy post adolescents in Beverly Hills with a strong anti-drug message. Apart from the setting and the names, the film has very little to do with Bret Easton Ellis's book by the same title on which it was based. Written by Jeroen van Bree <J.vBree@kub.nl>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

It only looks like the good life. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

6 November 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Corrupción en Beverly Hills See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,008,987, 8 November 1987, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$12,396,383
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Cinematographer Edward Lachman remembers that originally the film was a lot "edgier" and that the studio took it away from Marek Kanievska. He also recalled a scene he shot with Red Hot Chili Peppers: "The Red Hot Chili Peppers were in that film and the studio became very conservative and they said, 'Oh the band, they're sweaty and they don't have their shirts on.' They destroyed an incredible Steadicam shot, all because they had to cut around them being bare-chested". See more »

Goofs

Red Corvette is missing radio antenna in some scenes. See more »

Quotes

Rip: Well, don't slack off, man. Don't be a bum.
Clay: Like you?
Rip: Just like me.
See more »

Connections

Featured in WatchMojo: Top 10 Chilling Movie Overdose Scenes (2015) See more »

Soundtracks

Li'l Devil
Performed by The Cult
Words & Music by Ian Astbury (as Ian Robert Astbury) & Billy Duffy (as William Henry Duffy)
Courtesy of Sire Records by arrangement with Warner Special Products/Beggars Banquet Records
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User Reviews

 
Going Down the Cocaine Drain
2 December 2010 | by wes-connorsSee all my reviews

Finally graduating from Beverly Hills High School ("class of '87"), bratty well-heeled Andrew McCarthy (as Clay Easton) goes off to college while his friends back home go off the deep end. Also making it through the twelfth grade (at last) are Mr. McCarthy's sexy girlfriend Jami Gertz (as Blair) and fun-loving pal Robert Downey Jr. (as Julian Wells) - but these two are not college-bound; she decides to work on her modeling career and he wants to start a business. The three are reunited when McCarthy comes home for Christmas. But, partying becomes a downer when McCarthy discovers his friends have become fiendish cokeheads...

Can McCarthy save his friends in time?

With attractive young stars, semi-MTV quality, and decent soundtrack - propelled by The Bangles' great cover of the old Simon & Garfunkel chestnut "Hazy Shade of Winter" - this film was a big hit with those saw it as representative of a decadent, pre-AIDS lifestyle. And, "Less Than Zero" certainly looks and feels like the 1980s. It's thesis seems to be: Pitiful rich kids, who lack parental guidance, could get bitten by the drug bug. But, this was based on a much more reflective story, by Bret Easton Ellis.

Critics singled out Downey for praise, hence the video synopsis: "In a spellbinding dramatic performance, Robert Downey Jr. portrays Julian, a Beverly Hills brat who has it all: looks, charm, smarts, a rich father - and a drug habit. His friend and girlfriend (Andrew McCarthy and Jami Gertz) are trying to help, but Julian's world is crumbling so fast, he might take them out with him. The result is a powerful and compelling story of three kids who started out with everything and are about to wind up with 'Less than Zero'."

Apparently, a little eyeliner goes a long way.

Downey would have been even better in the "Rip Millar" role as it was originally written; this isn't meant to suggest either he or James Spader (as Rip) are inadequate; as far as this film takes them, they're fine. But, the male prostitution angle just isn't believable when you compare it to the book; and, it's way off balance. Worse, the original novel's bisexuality is neutered to extinction. A subtler performance is given by Gertz; with less to go on, she fills up her portrayal of a beautiful model on cocaine.

****** Less Than Zero (11/6/87) Marek Kanievska ~ Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, Robert Downey Jr., James Spader


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