If it’s possible, Less Than Zero is even more specious and shallow than the Bret Easton Ellis book it is based on. There’s a story somewhere tracking the dissipated lifestyles of the super-rich, super-hip kids and their LA haunts.
Drugs take over Julian (Robert Downey Jr), Clay (Andrew McCarthy) avoids the scene by attending an eastern college, and his g.f. Blair (Jami Gertz) loses her identity, which was never much to begin with. This is where they are at the beginning of the film – and pretty much where they are at the end.
Perhaps this wasn’t the best subject matter for British director Marek Kanievska (Another Country) to make his American debut. The feel for this distinctly Southern California story escapes him.
Only Downey elicits the kind of sympathy to distinguish this drama from a photojournalist essay of the kind that might run in Vanity Fair. Of the secondary roles, James Spader as Downey’s pusher is terrifically smarmy. Unfortunately, this sick relationship doesn’t become involving until the last third of the film, when Downey really begins to fall apart and is forced into male whoring to pay his drug debts. Visually the picture is a treat.