USA 2000

Reviewed by Mark Olsen


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Paul Tannek's acceptance by New York University makes him the first member of his Midwestern farming family to attend college. Once in the city he has a hard time fitting in. Even his own room-mates, a group of spoiled, rich party boys, shun him. After a mishap in the classroom of Professor Alcott, Paul meets and falls for fellow student Dora Diamond. Unbeknown to him, Dora is having an affair with Alcott.

After his room-mates conspire to have him kicked out, Paul is forced to live in the animal shelter where he works. Dora tries to meet her tuition fees by working nights as a cocktail waitress in a seedy club. Despite professing his love for her, Alcott is insensitive to Dora's predicament. Paul buys tickets for himself and Dora for a rock concert on the same night that his former room-mates plan to stage a party in his animal shelter. When Dora stops by at the party before the concert, one of the room-mates secretly slips her a pill in hopes of taking advantage of her. She misses the concert; later, a dejected Paul returns home to find Dora passed out in his shelter, which is wrecked from the party. Not wanting to upset Dora while she convalesces, Paul - who now knows about her affair with his professor - lies that Alcott is concerned about her recovery. When she learns the truth about Alcott, Dora realises her true feelings for Paul.


On paper Loser seems like a sure-fire winner. Some of the brightest young acting talent in contemporary Hollywood (Jason Biggs from the smartly risqué American Pie; Mena Suvari from the arthouse crossover American Beauty; Greg Kinnear from the mainstream pleaser As Good As It Gets) join writer-director Amy Heckerling, here making her first film since the surprise success of Clueless. But despite this promising line-up, Loser loses something along the way; what aspires to be a fresh and lively take on collegiate life and the pressures of the early adult years comes out as a tiresome mush filled with cut-outs for characters. For Heckerling, whose reputation is built largely on Clueless and her 1982 high-school comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, it seems she has become the one thing a purveyor of youth culture can never be: out of touch.

The film's premise is promising enough, as Biggs' young Paul ventures from rural Midwest to New York City, the first member of his family to attend college. Once there, he encounters Suvari's Dora, a worldly, troubled young woman whose exotic mystique attracts the naive farm boy. Complications arise in the form of Paul's uncaring dorm-mates and Dora's illicit affair with one of their professors (the blatantly uninterested Kinnear).

Loser switches between outdoor scenes shot in well-known New York locations and indoor scenes filmed largely on sound stages in Toronto. The difference in look and feel between the two is palpable and a constant distraction. During a number of scenes - apparently inspired by Billy Wilder's sparkling 1960 comedy The Apartment - where Paul and Dora sit in his shabby room and talk, straining to connect, one can see the film Loser wants to be poke out from behind the glossy veneer. But for Biggs and Suvari, such genuinely lively moments are few and far between. The film's final scene, presumably the product of last-minute reshoots, finds Biggs with a different haircut and visibly many pounds lighter. Though the actors awkwardly exchange lines explaining his appearance, it's hard not to find such obvious patchwork jarring. It would probably be beyond the means of any film-maker to bring such a messy movie to a graceful conclusion, but the forced romantic coupling and outlandishly unfunny end-title cards explaining the characters' futures (a popular patch-and-fix solution) are particularly off-putting.

The numerous shortcomings of Heckerling's film are a real disappointment considering her place in the development of the teen movie. At a time when Fast Times and Clueless are considered high-water marks as honest representations of teen mores, Loser seems to fancy itself as an antidote to such blandly generic teen films as Boys and Girls. But the project repeatedly strains for laughs by pushing itself to cartoonish extremism, notably through the trite villainy of Paul's room-mates and Dora's sleazy professor, so any honestly earned sympathies are lost. Failing even to muster the faux authenticity of American Beauty, Loser ultimately looks down its nose at those it should be helping to lift up.


Amy Heckerling
Amy Heckerling
Twink Caplan
Amy Heckerling
Director of Photography
Rob Hahn
Debra Chiate
Production Designer
Steven Jordan
David Kitay
©Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Production Company
Columbia Pictures presents an Amy Heckerling film
Executive Producer
John M. Eckert
Production Co-ordinators
Cory Porsia
New York Crew:
Scott Kordish
Unit Production Managers
John M. Eckert
New York Crew:
Richard Baratta
Location Managers
Keith Large
New York Crew:
Nicholas Bernstein
Assistant Directors
Jeff Authors
Grant Lucibello
New York Crew:
Tom Razzano
Lisa M. Rowe
Script Supervisor
Susan Marucci
Lynn Kressel
Ross Clydesdale
Camera Operators
Andy Chmura
New York Crew:
Tom Weston
David M. Dunlap
Steadicam Operators
Keith Murphy
New York Crew:
Andrew Casey
Special Effects
Martin Malivoire
Art Director
Andrew M. Stearn
Set Designer
Barry Isenor
Set Decorators
Patricia Cuccia
New York Crew:
Beth Kushnick
Key Scenic Artist
John Bannister
Costume Designer
Mona May
Costume Supervisors
Cori Burchell
New York Crew:
Amy Roth
Wardrobe Supervisor
New York Crew:
Michelle Matland
Patricia Green
New York Crew:
Felice Diamond
Key Stylist:
Maureen Mestan
New York Crew, Stylist:
Patricia Grande
Main Titles
The Picture Mill
Cinema Research Corporation
Music Supervisor
Elliot Lurie
Music Editor
Jeanette Surga
"Don't Fight It Baby" - 5ive; "Freakin' You" - Jungle Brothers; "Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)" - Offspring; "Get Down Tonight" - KC & the Sunshine Band; "Teenage Dirtbag" - Wheatus; "Boom" Trinket; "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" - Eiffel 65; "Sucks to Be You" - Prozzäk; "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" - Erica Lively Orchestra; "What's My Age Again?" - Blink 182; "Right Now" - SR-71; "Welcome to the Working Week" - Elvis Costello; "Go On" - J.K.; "Stop the Rock" - Apollo Four Forty; "Magna Cum Nada" - The Bloodhound Gang; "So Much for the Afterglow", "I Will Buy You a New Life" - Everclear; "Aurora" - Foo Fighters; "Cabaret" - Broadway cast, vocals: Natasha Richardson, Alan Cumming; "Mint Car" - The Cure; "Sonata in C Major, K.545 (Andante)" - Jenö Jandó; "Bad Touch"- The Bloodhound Gang; "No Myth" - Michael Penn; "Scarborough Fair/
Canticle" - Simon and Garfunkel; "Dance to the Underground" - Radio4; "She's So High" - Tal Bachman; "The Best Things in Life Are Free" - Mollie Israel; "Out of My Head"; "Man of the World"
Mary Ann Kellogg
Sound Mixers
Greg Chapman
New York Crew:
Michael Barosky
Re-recording Mixers
Tom Fleischman
Jim Fitzpatrick
Supervising Sound Editor
Michael O'Farrell
Dialogue Editors
Alison Fisher
Kim Drummond
David Giammarco
Sound Effects Editors
Scott A. Jennings
Mark Lanza
Loop Group
Reel Team
Supervising ADR Editor
Michael Haight
Vincent Guisetti
Pamela Nedd Kahn
Kyle Rochlin
Jonathan Klein
Stunt Co-ordinator
John Stoneham Jr
Jason Biggs
Paul Tannek
Mena Suvari
Dora Diamond
Zak Orth
Tom Sadoski
Jimmi Simpson
Greg Kinnear
Professor Edward Alcott
Dan Aykroyd
Twink Caplan
Bobby Slayton
Robert Miano
Mollee Israel
Colleen Camp
homeless woman
Andy Dick
another city worker
Steven Wright
panty hose customer
Brian Backer
Meredith Scott Lynn
dog-loving girl
Stuart Cornfeld
Taylor Negron
Andrea Martin
Scott Thomson
cell phone guy
Kedar Brown
Catherine Black
military jacket girl
Rick Demas
Sanjay Talwar
convenience cashier
Tracy Dawson
drug saleswoman
Carolyn Goff
Mike Beaver
boy at concert
Richard Blackburn
security guard
Billy Otis
Jenny Kim
student worker
Alison Sealy-Smith
university official
Martin Roach
Heidi Weeks
Saks saleswoman
Daniela Olivieri
store tailor
Kavita Persaud
Corwin Hall
Andrew Storms
Serena Lea
Hi Ro students
Nicholas Michael Bacon
beer store clerk
Valerie Boyle
Colleen Reynolds
Jack Jessop
Mallory Margel
Paul's sister
Patrick Mark
bloody nose guy
Tanja Jacobs
Darrin Brown
James Barret
Robert Tinkler
bar patron
Katherine Shekter
Robinne Fanfair
Clare Preuss
Sadie LeBlanc
Silvana Kane
Kerri Michalica
college girls
Geoffrey Antoine
coffee counter guy
Danny Truelove
Marc McMulkin
Jonathon Fernandes
Tiffany Leonardo
dancing kids
Columbia Tristar Films (UK)
8,558 feet
95 minutes 5 seconds
Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011