Pretty in Pink is one of the quintessential John Hughes teen comedy films and is much beloved by audiences. I am someone who categorically dislikes teen movies largely because screenwriters often fail to properly depict the delicate balance between youth and maturity that teenager characters really should be.
I honestly did not have high hopes for my liking this film as I was walking down to George st cinemas for the In the House screening but I was open to giving it a shot. Who knows, maybe this would be the one that finally wins me over to watching the youths on the silver screen?
The film follows the trials and travails of high schooler, Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald), as she works to juggle her schoolwork, supporting her underemployed father (Harry Dean Stanton), and her friendship with her overly romantically interested best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer). She catches the eye of the son of a well-to-do family, Blane McDonough (Andrew McCarthy), who asks to be her date for the fast-approaching prom. The friends of both Blane and Andie tell them that their romance is irreconcilable over the class divide and occasionally even work against the pair. Will Andie and Blane be able to stick together and overcome the class divide or is their infatuation doomed to fail?
The film’s story is pretty quintessential slice of life fare with action and drama that is very restrained. In all honesty, this genre of story is often quite alienating to me just because my own life is so often far removed from the painfully middle-class experiences these stories generally depict. Couple this fact alongside my distaste with teen movies and you might assume that I would probably despise Pretty in Pink but, despite my own assumptions, I am happy to say this was not the case. The film explores themes of class and poverty in a way which I found to be quite compelling in how subtly it approached them while still maintaining a focus on the regular humdrum life of its protagonist character. Speaking of which…
Andie is, without a doubt, the highlight of the entire film and the lynchpin of what makes it work. Her charm is so wonderfully earnest and genuine that it never fails to light up the screen whenever she’s in frame. She’s charming, funny, and caring about those around her in a way which I honestly aspire to. Her character doesn’t undergo an arc of growth throughout the story because she ultimately doesn’t need to; she’s resolved her internal conflict before the films story begins and just works to help those around her come to terms with theirs for the most part and it’s honestly just a wholesome delight to see her navigate the story as such a positive role model. To this end, the film unreservedly celebrates Andie in her interests and accomplishments whether it be supporting her friends and family or just dressing really well. You might correctly read that I am in love with the character and if you’ve seen the film, you will absolutely understand why.
The characters who are given more flaws and room for growth are most certainly our (very) flawed men. Duckie is a particularly strong example of this as he starts the film as an absolute creep of the highest order which caused me to vacillate between rage and disgust towards his behaviour alongside a healthy dose of worry for Andie. The film does play this for laughs, which ages it a bit badly in today’s context, but I am happy to report that his character arc has a super satisfying conclusion to his arc. Andie’s father and Blaine deal with their own arcs in a distinct contrast to each other as the former learns to move on from his heartbreak over his wife leaving him while the latter learns to stand by Andie in the face of opposition by his friends. With a main character so well-formed, it’s easy to see how she can guide these supporting characters to the very satisfying conclusions to all their arcs.
The film’s standout visual element is the costume design of the teenagers and the eccentric Iona. In particular, the film uses clothes to reinforce the class divide between the richer and poorer members of the school community with all the poor kids dressed in mismatched pieces while the rich kids all look fairly uniform in their slick polo shirts and suit pants and jackets. Everyone in this film has style but boy do the poorer kids have a real chic to them that I’d desperately want to emulate. Our protagonist has, of course, a supreme sense of style that the film allows us to enjoy with suitable awe but, for me, the real standout costume design lies with Ducky who has a ska punk look to him that I am keen to emulate. The film might be old but gorram, these kids look dang good in their get up.
The film’s soundtrack is an eclectic mix of 80s new wave from a variety of bands in the genre. It’s a wonderful compliment to the film’s setting and matches the feel of the teen movie genre. They all have a distinctly poppy beat to them as well which means that they’re all enjoyable when they play in their scenes. In particular, I was a fan of the more ska-type pieces that played during scenes in the dive bar the characters visited a couple of times in the film. All that being said, there was nothing which came up which left an impression on me that stayed beyond the film’s runtime. If you’ve got nostalgia for the era and 80s new wave, this soundtrack will be your jam but otherwise it serves its function well.
I came out to be disappointed and I honestly had such a good time with this film. The protagonist is a wonderful lynchpin who holds the film’s story together and allows the supporting cast to undergo some satisfying character arcs. The costume design for the teen characters is par excellence with plenty of chic and style. The 80s soundtrack is suitable for the setting and tone in accompanying the film’s action. It’s a wonderful gem of a movie that I had no expectation of finding and I’m glad that I gave it the opportunity to charm me; I have no doubt that almost everyone will enjoy it too.
Kudos to In the House for screening it and giving us an opportunity to see it on the big screen!
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