Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.
The future's not ours to see...
Almost two decades have ticked by since Heathers quietly slid onto the big screen. The years have been kind to the film, and while it never made a big splash while projected for darkened theaters, it has become a cult legend that few films can even think to touch. Premiering in 1989, Heathers was the perfect, ironic final chapter to the decade of John Hughes, big hair and cheery optimism.
Winona Ryder stars as Veronica Sawyer, a young woman who had forsaken her unpopular friend Betty Finn (note the names) to join a popular triumvirate clique of Heathers – the red Heather Chandler, the green Heather Duke and the yellow Heather McNamara. She's displeased with the actions of her new circle, yet yields to the demands of their red-themed leader – that is, until she becomes mesmerized by the dark clothed, attitude-laden new kid named Jason Dean (Christian Slater).
One night, Veronica heads out with Heather Chandler to a frat party. She gets sick and soon the girls are in a bitter, cursing fight. Veronica finally stands her ground against her bossy friend, and Heather vows: "Monday morning, you're history." As Veronica later stews over the argument in her bedroom, J.D. pops up in the window, helping to turn her rage into old-fashioned revenge. The next morning they head to Heather's house to give her a hangover cure -- J.D. is itching for the fatal, chemical solution, while Veronica just wants Heather to have the same puke-filled embarrassing situation that she suffered.Mesmerized by her new lover's lips, Veronica grabs the wrong cup, and soon, Heather is dead. Veronica's ability to mimic handwriting, which was previously used by Chandler to terrorize fellow students, will now be used against the slain leader. J.D. and Veronica concoct a suicide note, with "as many 50 cent words as possible," and make the murder look like a suicide. After getting away with the crime, Veronica watches her life and actions spin out of control as she's fueled by her agitation with the wicked ways of the popular, and J.D.'s exaggerated sense of justice. Suicide becomes an almost marketable gimmick, as Heather Chandler's memory is basked in memorials and the crazy teacher, Pauline Fleming, makes the student deaths a media event.
While Heathers is wonderful just for its strange storyline, the film really shines in the way it mimics society, but not environment. The hyperreality of the fictional Sherwood, Ohio not only explains the film's success, but its timeless quality. Sure, the girls have big hair and shoulder pads, but their super bright, unreal clothes are just strange enough to not be stuck in any time. They play croquet and eat pate, but they still have the drive and basic actions of regular teenagers.
And the language, oh, the language. The dialog in Heathers is in a world of its own, strengthened by Daniel Waters' refusal to use real slang of the time, and for the delightfully quirky lines like: "How very," "Our love is God," and "We'll all miss Sherwood's little Eskimo. Let's just hope she's rubbing noses with Jesus." (Of course, there's also many delicious, four-letter-variety phrases as well.) As a teen in my own suburban, Robin Hood forest, I fell in love with the dialog so much that I made an audio recording of the film, and would listen to it as I drove to and from school.
But that's just it. I'm not in high school anymore. Reunions have come and gone and years later, Heathers stands the test of time – and not because it's infused with nostalgia. I've watched it more times than I can begin to count; I can recite it from beginning to end, to the chagrin of those who watch it with me; and it still holds up. The popular and down-trodden of the school never got to dance together in heaven, as Waters originally intended, but the film still mystically reflects life. It sings with wordplay, satirizes sensationalized tragedy and fills our vengeful desires.