Less Than Zero (1987)
From Bret Easton Ellis acclaimed debut novel Less Than Zero only the title, the setting and a few character names survived into this adaptation directed by Marek Kanievska. It still is about a young college student returning home to Los Angeles from the East Coast for Christmas, and it still is about his friend Julian's descent down the drug-spiral, but several of the novel's edgier parts have been left out, leaving the film underplotted, which Kanievska tries (quite well) to make up for by capturing the mood of the time and youth culture in question. In the process, however, the film turns over-atmospheric and over-scored, making the portrait somewhat superficial and askew. Another reason for this is that the lead character is so underwritten and unremarkable that if not for Andrew McCarthy's blue-eyed twinkle, we'd probably forget he was even there. And Jami Gertz' wobbly acting by his side makes their twosome unconvincing at best. On the other hand, there's real presence and power in Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance and character – which is the one that has retained the most from Ellis' conception. So much, in fact, that we can only wonder how potent this film could have been if Clay also had been represented with all his vices and contradictions. The film tackles drug-addiction hands-on and realistically, but it makes the whole issue into a character-flaw, not a social problem. Downey was probably the only one who really knew what he was doing here. Brad Pitt appears unbilled as an extra early in the movie.