Archives / 1989 Sundance Film Festival

Heathers

Director: Michael Lehmann

Screenwriters: Daniel Waters

Institute History

Description

Heathers, the first feature film by Michael Lehmann, puts intriguing spin on the subject of youthful turmoil. With a wry eye for modern grown-up behavior in its dress-rehearsal stage, Lehmann delivers a wickedly colorful dark comedy about young adults: their pains, dramas, eating habits and fashion accessories.

Westerburg High in Sherwood, Ohio is an arena fraught with competitive vengeance, a peer pressure cooker ruled an elite feminine quartet known as “The Heathers.” Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder), their newest member, knows that high school isn’t child’s play: it’s war. In a gesture of defiance to the group, she attaches herself to J. D. (Christian Slater), an outwardly mature, philosophical rebel, and a motorcycle-riding newcomer to Westerburg.

Their antics together to rid the high school of its bad apples turn increasingly calculated and serious, and ultimately lead to murder. Heathers begins as a comic version of River’s Edge, but ends much closer to the dark, eerie toned Something Wild. That the film can traverse such extreme emotional territory with such ease (and humor) is a true accomplishment. Winona Ryder, last seen at the Festival in Square Dance , matured into a fine young actress, easily stretching with the role in all its difficult directions. Heathers, in fact, clicks on all levels—script, direction, production—and must be applauded as a clever, ambitious new film.

— Tony Safford

Screening Details

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