This is a deeply disturbing plunge into the issues of drug addiction, male prostitution, homelessness, all constrasted with the lifestyles of LA's / Palm Springs' very wealthy and their kids who have access to their families' cash and no responsibilities.
Clay goes off to college right after high school, only to return home and watch his best friend and girlfriend's lives fall apart around him. He so reminds me of myself and some (but definitely not all) the experiences some friends and an ex-girlfriend of mine faced in real life (and all experienced very real death).
Ironically, the movie's high school graduation scenes that start it off were filmed at my University, as there are shots taken all over San Diego State's campus in the beginning of the picture - I used to walk to my classes through that movie's "set."
But geeze did I know the wealthy kids (mostly from college) who lived that kind of life - especially those from "the Valley," just outside of LA in Southern California.
The death I experienced was from suicides and a homocide, not drug overdoses. But who knows? It might've gone down that way. I also suspect several girls of being turned out for prostitution because of drug debts, but didn't know of any guys doing it.
Morton Downey, Jr. played his role excellently - and because of his own real life experience - all too convincingly. Funny thing is, that he went through those ordeals AFTER he shot this movie. You'd think it'd been a lesson for him that he wouldn't have had to learn the hard way. It makes it hard to feel sorry for him. He's annoying as a human being - though like I said - very believeable to watch in this film. If he was supposed to disgust the audience, he was perfect for the role for that.
Jaime Gertz is the leading lady and she gets several steamy sex scenes. She's pretty good - like maybe a "7" or so - and plays a fashion model in the picture. But there's no nude scenes of her. In fact, Less Than Zero probably has the most raunchy "clothes still on" sex scenes of any movie I can think of - as they suggest everything - but don't exactly show it. That comes off as sort of erotic - but also you're asking yourself "who has sex with their clothes ON?" I suppose when you don't want to get caught...but they shouldn't have been at risk in one of those scenes. I'll give them the other one though.
Anyway, in the final run of things, the predictable death (and therefore less tragic) of one of the lead characters begins a great introduction to the war-on-drugs-era of movies - as this is exactly WHY the government needs to control these substances.
Crack cocaine is the drug of choice in this movie. It's interesting to see Hollywood's take on recreational drugs:
marajuana is almost never presented as any kind of threat - nor a "slippery slope drug" that lures its users into trying the other stuff. Neither is alcohol usually.
Cocaine and heroin are definitely villified. It's funny though - a lot of the increased drug use spread out through the military and morphine addiction and such, plus the other substances' used by soldiers to cope with combat stress.