Favorite Fictional Characters, #66: Diane Court
Say Anything is a seminal movie for folks of my vintage. For the most part, it's a formulaic teen love story, a Cameron Crowe paint-by-numbers paean to unearned wisdom and post-adolescent panic. It enjoys John Cusack's signature performance, including the iconic boom box scene that firmly entrenched Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes as the serenading anthem of a generation. But while Cusack's Lloyd Dobler is a favorite of many, and not without reason, I've always been partial to Diane Court.
A character who flirts with being a cardboard cutout romantic interest for the charming, scruffy lead, Ione Sky's vulnerable portrayal lends dimension to Diane. Sheltered and ambitious, Diane's academic achievement is classic small-fish-in-smaller-pond stuff. She's celebrated for it, and yet she knows it's ephemeral, transitory, and ultimately meaningless. The world she's about to enter is one that could care less about the GPA and ribbons her father and teachers coo over. It's a world where there will be a million Diane Courts, just as smart, just as pretty, and it terrifies her. "All I can say is - go back" was equal parts joke and painful truth. I feel you, Diane. It's agonizingly familiar.
The obvious theme of the film is finding love despite apparent differences, and how it can save us. But a deeper theme is that life is not a straight line. That the orderly procession from safe rung to safe rung on a secure ladder is an illusion. There comes a time when there's no clear direction, no next semester with tangible report cards to tell us how we're doing. The world will suck, and navigating it will be hard and sloppy and probably impossible. Diane realizes this, that everything she's worked for, everything she's been told gives her value and makes her special, is childish fantasy.
In the end, after her father's fall from grace, she embraces the imperfection of it all. It's not about doing or being the best, because that ain't gonna happen. It's not about just deciding to be in a good mood or kickboxing or buying things that aren't sold or processed. It's not even about trading a heart for a pen. It's about getting on a plane. And with any luck, someone will get in the seat next to you, and you can be together on the way down.