John Hughes is the undisputed king of the 80’s teen movie, having written (and frequently directed) such films as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985) and, my personal favourite, Pretty in Pink (1986).
Pretty in Pink might sound like another superficial teenage rom-com and you could be forgiven for dismissing it as such. The premise is not particularly exciting – shy, slightly awkward girl from ‘the wrong side of the tracks’ falls for the rich, good-looking guy she goes to school with. He falls for her too but his wealthy friends don’t approve. However will she win them over in time for prom?!
The point is: she doesn’t.
Andie, played by ‘Brat Pack’ queen Molly Ringwald, never once compromises who she is in order to fit in. What’s more, she doesn’t want to fit in. In fact it’s her love interest, Blane (found under ‘B’ in the Catalogue of Preppy Rich Guy Names), who caves under the pressure of his obnoxious clique and becomes embarrassed to be seen with her.
Hughes’ script is, as usual, excellent. The interactions between Andie and her underemployed father (Harry Dean Stanton) are both sweet and sad – he is still deeply in love with Andie’s mother who walked out on them both years ago and he carries that grief every day, rarely allowing his daughter to see his pain.
A young bouffant-haired James Spader turns in an effortless performance as the slimy playboy, Steff, whose malice towards Andie stems from her rejection of him at the beginning of the film.
You know, I’ve been out with a lot of girls at this school. I don’t see what makes you so different.
Well, I have taste.
But THE most important reason to watch Pretty in Pink is the incomparable presence of Andie’s best friend, Duckie, played by Jon Cryer. Charismatic, witty and hopelessly in love with her, he brings a warmth and vulnerability to a potentially irritating character. The most famous scene of the film (hilariously recreated recently on ‘The Late Late Show with James Corden’) is Duckie lip-syncing to Otis Redding’s ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ – see below for the clip!
This film ticks all the high school rom-com boxes and is elevated by the fantastic cast and script. Hughes manages to capture the angst, joy and pain of first love without resorting to gushy melodramatics. If you’re looking for an easy watch that’s a few steps above the average teen movie then Pretty in Pink is the one for you.