Say Anything Movie Review

1236 words | 5 page(s)

In the romantic comedy Say Anything …, the relationship that develops between Lloyd and Diane can be effectively analyzed using Knapp’s relationship model. Knapp (1984) formulated a process of relationship development consisting of several stages of “coming together” and an equal number of “coming apart.” In Say Anything …, the two main characters move through most of these stages during the course of the film, as their relationship is initiated and deepens, is suspended, then becomes established. The following will chart the film using Knapp’s model, while also looking at issues of self-disclosure and honesty through the lens of Altman & Taylor’s (1973) social penetration theory.

Knapp (1984) identifies five stages of “coming together” in a relationship: initiating, experimentation, intensifying, integration, and bonding. The first is the manner in which the initial association is made and the first impressions that the two parties have of one another. In Say Anything …, Lloyd, who has apparently been obsessed with Diane from some time, is the instigator: he calls her and, after initially being refused, manages to talk her into going out with him. For Diane, the class valedictorian with beauty, brains, and ambition, Lloyd was not even on her radar – in fact, she did not even know who he was, at least by name, despite having gone to the same high school for several years. Diane, so focused on her education and future, had little time for dating and, though desirable, was intimidating for many of her fellow students. When Lloyd is asked by one incredulous peer how he managed to get her to go out with him, he replies: “I called her up.”

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The initiating stage takes place at a graduation party and Diane’s first impressions of Lloyd are favorable. She is impressed by his responsibility, his popularity – despite being outside of traditional high-school social circles – and the respect and protectiveness he displays towards her. As she tells her father afterwards, “Lloyd was a complete gentleman.” By the end of the first date, the two are already moving into the experimentation phase, in which they find common ground and gently probe on another for more personal information. They talk about their families, their future plans, and reflect on their high school experience. Altman & Taylor (1973) describe this form of interpersonal communication, where the depth and breadth of information sharing moves from the superficial to the more substantive and meaningful, as “social penetration.” While the two have not yet delved deeply into each other’s private worlds, the scope of their communications is already widening. As the two separate at the end of the date, they are already making plans to speak later and, presumably, go out again.

After experimentation, in Knapp’s model, comes intensification, wherein the participants increase levels of self-disclosure and engage in acts such as gift-giving, expressions of affection, and the formation of romantic commitments. In this stage, the two people test the degree to which their verbal and nonverbal expressions are reciprocated. For a second date, Diane invites Lloyd to her home for dinner. Meeting a potential partner’s family is an important step in any relationship, but particularly so in this case, given Diane’s close relationship with her father. If Lloyd had balked as the invitation or behaved in a disrespectful manner, it may have communicated to her a lack of seriousness or reliability on his part. Over dinner, the two are able to see how the other behaves in a more formal setting than the graduation party and each discloses a little more about themselves, deepening the degree of social penetration. Diane tests Lloyd again on their next meeting, having him come to the old age home where she works and interact with some of the residents – another relationship that is important to her. In both cases, Lloyd passes the test, showing himself to be open to the people who are important in Diane’s life.

At this stage, however, Diane begins to pull back somewhat. She expresses her to desire to spend more time with her father and not to let things with Lloyd get “too heavy.” They agree to be “friends with potential.” It is not long before that “potential” is realized, however, and their relationship becomes increasingly physical. After they sleep together, both Diane and Lloyd confide in those they are closest to: Diane to her father and Lloyd to his female friend Corey. They both have complete trust in these outside parties and can, as the title suggests, “say anything” to them. Self-disclosure in their confidants is important to them and this reflection off others makes their relationship and its development more real to them. As Diane says to her father, “If I can’t share it with you, it’s almost as if it didn’t happen.” Having a member of the opposite sex to express their hopes and doubts to helps each find direction in the relationship.

As Ebert (1989) writes in his review of the Say Anything …, “The movie is about honesty … and it is also about dishonesty.” When Diane’s father begins to be investigated for tax evasion and she learns that he has been repeatedly lying to her, her sense of trust in others is crushed. He has broken the contract they had to “say anything” to one another and Diane pulls away from him. It also has the effect of pushing her back towards Lloyd, from whom she had withdrawn but still trusts. Knapp’s relationship model contains five stages of drawing apart: differentiating, circumscribing, stagnation, avoidance, and termination. After expressing their love of one another – Lloyd directly and Diane to her father – Diane realizes that they have reached a level in their relationship she is not comfortable with and begins “differentiating.” She hears her father in her head saying how different they are, how she has a great future and he remains directionless and will only hold her back. She suspends their relationship, which is a common solution at this stage (Knapp, 1984).

The two quickly move through the other phases of drawing apart: circumscribing, stagnation, and avoidance. They stop communicating with each other or do so at a more mediated, less intimate level. Diane does not return Lloyd’s calls and both start avoiding and trying to forget each other, using their other confidants to express what they are feeling. When Diane loses trust in her father, however, she has no one else to turn to for help in a life that is being turned upside down. Unlike her father, Lloyd has never lied to her. He helps Diane through the difficult time and mediates a partial reconciliation with her father. Meanwhile, the two enter the” integration” stage of their relationship. In this stage, they reveal their deepest vulnerabilities to one another and acknowledge their official status as a couple. They make a commitment and fly off to England together. While the future of their relationship remains uncertain, the ding of the seatbelt light going off at the close of the film is some indication that “everything will be all right.”

  • Altman, I. & Taylor, D. (1973). Social penetration: The development of interpersonal relationships. New York: Holt.
  • Crowe, C., Cusack, J., Skye, I., Mahoney, J., Taylor, L., Gracie Films., & Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc. (2001). Say anything–. Beverly Hills, Calif: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
  • Ebert, Roger. “Say Anything.”, 14 April 1989. Web. 31 May 2014.
  • Knapp, M.L. (1984). Interpersonal Communication and Human Relationships. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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