April 24, 1989 12:00 PM

John Cusack, Ione Skye

“I met her in a mall,” wails Cusack. “I should have known our relationship was doomed.”

Frisky, savvy and wonderfully entertaining, Say Anything is far above the usual car-crashing, beer-bashing adolescent comedies. Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, it is about an affair between an outcast and a model student. As he showed with his script for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the glorious champion of this inglorious genre, Crowe is a suburban sociologist wise in the tribal ways of youth. When he stages a hilarious graduation (complete with “The Greatest Love of All” done a cappella), Crowe makes it plausible. He does the same with his love story, which is set in that purgatory summer between high school and college.

Cusack is obsessed with scholarship student Skye (River’s Edge). She’s smitten too, although she’ll soon be off to England on a fellowship. Cusack is adept at making adolescent angst palpable, and with her good-girl grace and beguiling smile, Skye enchants the audience as well as Cusack. In this movie romance, for a change, you understand the young lovers’ attraction to each other. Crowe also adds something missing in most teen trauma movies: a substantial father figure. Skye’s dad, John (Moonstruck) Mahoney, encourages her to tell him everything, including whom she sleeps with, and he is remarkable at delineating the delusions of fatherhood.

Immensely witty in a class-conscious way, and touching at times, this movie is a bittersweet meditation on distrust, mistrust and misfits of the heart. It speaks eloquently in what sometimes seems a lost language in Hollywood: the poignant pleas of young love. (PG-13)

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