Two Cents “Girl Stories” Series — HEATHERS

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

We’ve had a blast turning down the machismo these last few weeks to highlight unique stories, new and old, about adolescent girls. From the exploration of urban femininity and conformity in The Fits, to the heavy-metal European macabre of Phenomena, to the disturbingly real struggle of rural Ethiopia’s cultural crisis of pedophilic rape and forced marriage in Difret, we’ve traversed the globe in search of different looks at girlhood. Our final entry in the series is our readers’ choice selection, 1988’s cult classic black comedy Heathers starring Winona Ryder, fresh off of her breakout role in Beetlejuice. Sick of her rich, upper crust clique of shallow snobs (all named Heather), Veronica befriends bad boy J.D. (Christian Slater), only to find he’s got his own problems as well — chiefly being a murdering psychopath.

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

Next Week’s Pick

Far too soon, we find ourselves saying goodbye to beloved actor Bill Paxton. Paxton is known for many memorable supporting and leading roles ranging from top-tier, ass-kicking genre fare to prestigious dramas: Tombstone, Twister, Apollo 13, Near Dark, Commando, A Simple Plan, Nightcrawler, TV’s Big Love, and of course most famously his many collaborations with James Cameron including The Terminator, Aliens, True Lies, and Titanic.

In addition to acting, Paxton directed only two feature films, and of those only starred in one. In that sense, the 2001 thriller Frailty is perhaps his purest artistic vision. Netflix has just made it available, and to this week we are proud to honor and celebrate the career of Bill Paxton by sharing in one of his most unique projects.

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)!

The Team

Justin Harlan

Dick Cheney. Steve Bannon. Christian Slater. What do these men have in common? They are true architects of fear and destruction.

The diabolical Jason Dean (JD), Slater’s sinister suicide sculptor in 1988’s Heathers, is a truly evil young man. He sees an opportunity and pounces on it, fabricating a wave of suicides to cover up his homicidal tendencies.

His Christian Slater as Jack Nicholson schtick is effective in creating a charismatic and unhinged asshole for the audience to cheer on, cheer against, and truly fear. The heroine, Winona Ryder’s Veronica Sawyer, has a powerful arch, first pushed around by her manipulative boyfriend JD, then standing up to him, and perhaps taking over his role at the end. Their performances are great and the supporting cast props them up to do their thing.

There are many layers of commentary on body image, sexism, 80s pop culture, and Reaganism, but at its core it’s an entertaining story about a woman refusing to get stepped on anymore.

Veronica Sawyer is a real “nasty woman” and I love her for it.

Brendan Foley

Two things are true about Heathers:

  1. It is one of the most influential films ever made about high school politics, with everything from Buffy to Mean Girls to Brick drawing clear inspiration from the rat-a-tat-tat dialogue to the pointed quips.
  2. I don’t like Heathers very much.

It’s not a bad film, not at all. The dialogue is still as sharp as ever, the performances (especially Ryder and Slater) key into the tone perfectly, but I don’t know, man. This is an acidic comedy with the acid is turned up just a touch too high. Ryder is supposed to be our guide into this world, our point of view character, but this time out I found her Veronica to be every bit as reprehensible as the Heathers we’re supposed to loathe.

So, I’m sorry to say that this one doesn’t quite do it for me any more. It’s still unlike any other high school film ever made, and even the most dark spirited of the modern crop doesn’t get within a hundred feet of Heathers’ brutality. So hats off on that front, boys, but I don’t see myself returning to this one very often.

Austin Vashaw

Last week’s readers might have noticed that our introduction of Heathers as our pick was pretty vague — reason being that I really had no idea what to expect. I’d heard the title referenced as a sort of 80s cult classic, but it was a decade or so before my time (in 1988 I was still learning to identify syllables and carry the 1). That said, it seemed to fit our “Girl Stories” concept perfectly so here we are.

Certainly the most immediate element of the film is its pair of young leads — Christian Slater as the alluring loner who turns out to be a psycho, and Winona Ryder as the curious heroine who gets drawn in by his weird charm before realizing the gravity of her mistake.

The movie’s definitely dark — a rash of teen murders are disguised as suicides — but sardonically humorous as well, skewering high school politics, upper-class snobbery, and even the culpability of news media in exploiting tragedy.

But while I can appreciate the film’s venomous cleverness on a number of levels, I’m not really on its wavelength. I find it rather disingenuous to absolve Veronica or accept her as some sort of heroine because she decides that murdering those last couple people may have been crossing the line (even though her role was partially accidental, her belligerent attitude afterward ultimately confirms her guilt).

Previous post ALL NIGHTER: A Dad-Boyfriend Tale With Heart
Next post Don’t RSVP to TABLE 19. Just Send Your Regards.