Thursday, November 4, 2010

Heathers (DVD)

Heathers (DVD) Release date: 1989. Performers: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Kim Walker, Lisanne Falk. Studio: New World Pictures. Director: Michael Lehmann. Screenplay: Daniel Waters. ASIN: B001KZNH4.

Plot summary: Seventeen-year-old Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) is friends with the most popular girls at Westerberg High School: Heather Chandler (Kim Walker), Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty) and Heather McNamara (Lisanne Falk). Heather Chandler is the ringleader of this vicious clique, and Veronica, growing tired of their shallow behavior, decides to date mysterious newcomer Jason Dean “J.D” (Christian Slater). Hoping to play a trick on Heather Chandler who, despite their friendship, has repeatedly humiliated her, Veronica and J.D. mix up a cup of what Veronica thinks is orange juice and milk to give to Heather. Not realizing that J.D. has actually switched cups and given her drain cleaner, Heather dies after drinking the concoction. Veronica and J.D. stage the death as a suicide, and begin a series of murders on campus, seeking revenge against their school bullies. At first thrilled by her adventures with J.D., Veronica begins to realize that their actions are wrong and seeks to stop her boyfriend before he harms anyone else.

Critical evaluation: Heathers is an original, unique film that is almost the antithesis to the typical teen film. There is the age-old struggle of a teen like Veronica trying to fit in with the popular “Heather” crowd, but instead of eventually winning them over, Veronica and her boyfriend, J.D., kill their high school enemies. Full of dark humor, colorful language, and interesting characters, Heathers is a stark contrast to the sometimes saccharine John Hughes films of the 1980s. While the film may not appeal to teens of today as much as others, the lives of the teens of 1989 portrayed are very different from those of 2010, many will still be able to identify with the issues presented: acceptance, peer pressure, trying to fit in, teenage suicide and sexuality. The language, though coarse, will also attract some teens who are entertained by catchy, but dirty, phrases. The film is considered a cult classic, and has remained popular in the 21 years since its release.

Reader's annotation: Veronica Sawyer is friends with the most popular girls in school: Heather Chandler, Heather Duke and Heather McNamara. When mysterious new guy, J.D., enters the picture, however, will Veronica be able to stay true to the vicious band of Heathers?

About the author (screenplay): Daniel Waters was born in 1962 in Cleveland, Ohio. He began writing in high school, and wrote his first screenplay for Heathers in 1989 while working in a video store. After the film’s success, Waters went on to write many more screenplays including The Adventures of Ford Fairlane (1990), Batman Returns (1992), Demolition Man (1993), and Sex and Death 101 (2007). He also wrote and directed the teen comedy Happy Campers in 2001. Waters has frequently stated that his scripts provide what he believes to be more accurate depictions of teens than other films. His inspiration for the characters in Heathers was his sister when she was in high school. (

Genre: Dark comedy

Curriculum ties:

Booktalking ideas:
Teenage suicide
Peer pressure
Teenage sexuality

Reading level/Interest Age:
MPAA R (but likely interest 15+)

Challenge issues:
Rebellious attitudes
Alcohol use

Challenge counterpoints:
MPAA rating of R acts as guide for parent.
Recommend parent watch film before children.
Recommend parent watch film with children.
Recommend parent discuss teenage suicide with children.

Reasons for inclusion:
Critically acclaimed.  
Screenplay received 1990 Edgar Award.

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