I’ve been trying to see all of John Hughes’ movies that I missed in the 80s. I only have Christmas Vacation, Nate and Hayes, and She’s Having a Baby left, and I’m hoping they don’t get any worse. Thankfully the abysmal Curly Sue was released in ’91, and I don’t have to see a cutesy movie about a homeless girl and her Dad who hurts himself to beg. That was corny when Chaplin did it in ’27. It ended Hughes’ directing career, and hopefully not by choice.
A National Lampooner who sprung onto the scene with the classic Vacation, Hughes quickly veered into teen comedies, from classics like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Breakfast Club to lighter fare such as Weird Science and Sixteen Candles. Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful are practically the same story; a girl and boy from different social circles get involved, and have a quirky sidekick who actually loves them. Nothing new- Romeo & Juliet without the violence, and more comic relief. I made a grave mistake and watched Some Kind of Wonderful first; both are flawed yet endearing, but they’re the same story. I think he got it better the second time around- Lea Thompson is hotter, Elias Koteas is funny as hell. But this one has Dweezil Zappa and Dice Clay cameos, so maybe it evens out.
Pretty in Pink has Hughes staple Molly Ringwald as Andie, daughter of an unemployed Dad (Harry Dean Stanton) who’s still depressed over his wife leaving them 3 years prior. Molly works at a record shop with Iona (Annie Potts, Ghostbusters), who shows up with a different hair-do and fashion style in every scene- from spiky punk to a rat, a beehive, and whatnot. Molly’s best friend is Duckie (Jon Cryer, “Two and a Half Men”), the quirky misfit with sunglasses and a pompadour who moons after her but whose romantic aspirations are not returned in kind. Since she also dresses like she tumbled through a vintage clothing store, they seem like a good match, but Andie has a crush on rich boy Blane (Andrew McCarthy, Weekend at Bernie’s).
Blane is a nice enough guy, but his best friend Steff (James Spader, Wolf, “Boston Legal”) has been trying to get into Molly’s pretty pink you-know-what, and holds a grudge against her for rebuffing his slimy advances. So, he sabotages the already shaky relationship, as poor gal tries to navigate rich-boy’s social circle while snotty rich twats sneer at her every turn. To try to make things even, Andie takes Blane to the music club where she hangs out, and the punks there give rich-boy a hard time. There’s a disgusting scene early on where Andie and Duckie park her pink Karman-Ghia outside a rich neighborhood, so she can drool over their expensive houses; it’s not pointed out as shallow, and nowadays we’re coached to desire mansions far beyond our means, because Wall Street found a way to make tons of money off it. Not that the bottom fell out of that particular market, we’re back to parking outside the McMansions in our banged up cars, or perhaps living within our means.
The movie follows the typical rom-com three-act plot, with silly misunderstandings causing both boys to stomp away from our lead girl at various points. Who will she go to prom with? She made a dress and everything!! Of course all three of them go stag, so they can meet up and give us a resolution. Hughes changed the ending due to a bad test screening, and a really unlikely scene where they decide to just get along is tacked on against the story’s wishes. Ebert put it quite well- these are stories where Cinderella gets to keep her glass slippers. In reality, Blane would see Andie years after high school, perhaps while antiquing with his debutante wife, and they’d smile awkwardly at each other.
Duckie oozes hate for pretty boy Blane, but he lets Andie go off with him, even though it’s clear that she’s just a social climbing bitch infatuated with his Polo cardigans. Duckie hooks up with some random girl across the dance floor, so we don’t feel sorry for him. Until the ending, the movie tries to navigate the stormy waters of class divisions in America where we’re all supposed to be equal, and still be an entertaining romantic teen comedy, but the tacked-on ending hits an insulting iceberg of wish-fulfillment . Steff said it, but we never get to see it- wait until Blane’s mom takes her aside and tells her to point her gold-digging titties north and get moving, and we’ll see how the story really ends.
Some Kind of Wonderful was Hughes’s feel-good apology for the shitty ending to this, and I think it is a better story. In that movie, the romantic lead is at least taken to task for not loving someone for who they are, but what she symbolizes to him. It has its own flaws but it’s a lot more fun than this movie was. What does this movie have going for it? Ringwald defines quirky-cute, as the bobbed redhead who takes off her granny glasses to reveal a pouty-lipped beauty; Jon Cryer is pretty amusing in it, singing Elvis on cue and looking like a Stray Cats fanboy; Dice Clay has a brief cameo as a bouncer, which would lead to bigger roles; Dweezil Zappa has an even shorter scene as a dopey music fan; and finally the Rave-Ups, a short-lived late-80s band, play a few forgettable songs before they did for “Beverly Hills 90210.” The soundtrack is pretty good, with the theme song by the Psychedelic Furs, some New Order, INXS, the Smiths, OMD, and Echo & the Bunnymen.
So maybe seeing this before Some Kind of Wonderful would have made me like it more; I doubt it, the ending really torpedoes any power the story had.
Beers Required to Enjoy: 1
Could it be remade today? all the time
Quotability Rating: zero
Cheese Factor: Velveeta
High Points: cameos, likeable leads
Low Point: Hollywood ending
Gratuitous Boobies: Zero