Reviews

Pretty in Pink

At its heart, Pretty in Pink takes a fairly simplistic view towards relationships between rich and poor.


Pretty in Pink

Director: Howard Deutch
Cast: Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, James Spader, Harry Dean Stanton, Jon Cryer, Annie Potts
Length: 96
Studio: Paramount
Distributor: Paramount
MPAA rating: PG-13
First date: 2008
US DVD Release Date: 2008-08-05

Of the tons of movies that John Hughes has written, he's best known for his run of '80s teen films. It's tempting to look at those efforts as little more than frothy vehicles and steady employment for Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, and the rest of the Brat Pack, but that would ignore the way they resonated with young audiences. Hughes's ear for teen slang, the films' cutting edge soundtracks and fashion, and their attention to teen anxieties set them apart from other films marketed to young moviegoers. Most importantly, though, they at least acknowledged the caste systems and class differences that make up teens' daily lives. Anyone who's ever gone to a school that blended rich and poor kids, or lived in a town with a rich school and a poor school, can tell you that the two sides don't always comfortably coexist.

The Breakfast Club, Hughes's most iconic movie, acted as something of a social experiment -- what happens if you throw disparate people into a fishbowl with each other for a day? In that case, socioeconomic differences were only a small part of the numerous conflicts between the kids. Sixteen Candles toyed with differences in coolness and class for comedic effect. Even Some Kind of Wonderful, with its straightforward tale of romance complicating a friendship, touched on the perils of pissing off the rich kids, but it wasn't the movie's focus. Pretty in Pink, however, may be Hughes' most complicated portrayal in the way that money -- who has it, who doesn't, and what they think of each other -- takes center stage.

The plot is simple enough. Andie (Molly Ringwald), a misfit from the poor side of town, makes her own clothes and acts as the parent for her unemployed father. Her best friend, Duckie (Jon Cryer), holds a secret crush for Andie and becomes threatened when the rich and popular Blane (Andrew McCarthy) becomes interested in Andie. Andie and Blane's attempts at a relationship are tentative and uneasy from the start, hindered by their own preconceptions and by friends who see the very idea of such a romance as a betrayal of their communities. Leading the charge is Blane's friend Steff (James Spader), who takes a devil-on-the-shoulder approach to wrecking the whole thing.

It's a time-tested story, given new life here by the cast's performances and by the nuances of Hughes' script. Ringwald is every bit the oddball in her pieced-together outfits and vintage tastes, her performance ranging from put-upon teenage angst and wry humor to vocal rage as her life refuses to untangle itself. McCarthy is skittery and flighty, obviously too beholden to the opinions of others. James Spader, for his part, probably never did a better job of oozing sleepy-eyed amorality and wounded predator's pride.

At its heart, Pretty in Pink takes a fairly simplistic view towards relationships between rich and poor. Apart from Andie and Blane's relationship, there's absolutely no blurring of the lines between the two camps. Andie encounters as much hostility at a rich party as Blane encounters at one of Andie's favorite clubs. Even the film's color schemes -- rich kids in light textures and colors, the poor kids' clothing dark and oftent bulky -- paints a picture of a world with no natural overlaps. But it excels at showing the storm of opinions and advice that can surround such a situation, and how it can sway a person's resolve.

It would seem a foregone conclusion that Pretty in Pink must end a certain way, but a completely different ending was initially planned (unfortunately, that alternate ending -- or even any discussion of it -- is not included in this I Love the '80s version, which counts a four-track CD of '80s songs as its only extra). Honestly, it's hard to conceive of any ending not seeming like a little bit of a cop-out. The film paints itself into a little bit of a corner, so that an ending in which Andie ends up with Duckie seems like a harsh lesson that kids shouldn't try to leave their cliques, while an ending that puts Andie and Blane together seems like a naive -- if romantic -- wish for all of their troubles to magically go away. As the film winds towards its conclusion, it's not unrealistic to expect an ending full of ambiguity -- John Hughes's version of the fading smiles at the end of The Graduate. Pretty in Pink, however, doesn't play that way, despite its bleak portrayal of the dividing lines that govern its characters' lives.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image