The Scoop: 1986 PG-13, directed by Howard Deutch and starring Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer, James Spader and Andrew McCarthy
Tagline: He’s crazy about her. She’s crazy about him. He’s just crazy.
Summary Capsule: John Hughes pens a love triangle between a cowardly rich boy, a poor girl, and a raving loon. Er, Duckie.
Louise’s Rating: What am I rating here? The costumes, the music or the sour aftertaste?
Louise’s Review: Here is a story. Once upon a time, there was a girl named Andie who was trapped by her circumstances. She was young, poor and she had a reversed relationship with her one remaining parent. Andie had some ambition – she got ‘straight As’ in her studies – but while she remained at school she tried to keep her distance from people she despised by covering herself in a protective armour of frumpy old-lady eccentric over-accessorized fashion. She didn’t belong, and apart from one or two close friends, she didn’t want to belong. Her life was elsewhere.
However, it didn’t work. She attracted notice. The girls didn’t like her, but the boys, for some reason, did. Steff was faintly ridiculous – a cynical aesthete, a dangerous fop, a young snob set for a life of debauchery and privilege. He tried to exercise his droit de seigneur over Andie, but she was having none of it, and after that he considered her an enemy. Blane had better instincts, and a less lizard-like smile, but he was weak and limp, and too easily swayed by his possessive friends. However, at least he had the nerve to ask her out properly. Duckie was the best of the lot. He adored Andie for everything she was, and he wore his adoration on his sleeve. He loved her so much he put her above himself and his own safety, and was prepared to suffer for her sake. Unfortunately, his shameless admiration annoyed the object of it rather than endearing him to her. Perhaps because he was a funny guy, she assumed he was joking. Perhaps she took him for granted. Perhaps she felt he had rather objectified her and wanted to control her behaviour just as much as Steff did. Maybe she just didn’t like him in that way.
Blane – the nice but spineless one – asked Andie out. They managed two dates. They were hardly Darcy and Elizabeth. Anyway, the relationship went downhill almost immediately. That didn’t stop it hurting when he dumped her just before prom. However, Andie got her man Blane, the man she still wanted, despite (or maybe because of) everything that had gone before. She wanted to win and she did. She wanted him to believe in her and he did. She wanted Duckie to let her go and in the end he did too.
And maybe, if she’d had a shred of likeability, we would have been happy for her.
Pretty in Pink is a rather exasperating movie. It is definitely worth a watch for three reasons. 1) Jon Cryer as Duckie. 2) Annie Potts as Iona. 3) James Spader as Steff. All three put in memorable performances, and for Cryer and Potts it’s something of a Finest Hour. The music is pretty special too, and I appreciate the costumes. Andie’s clothes, her “volcanic ensembles” as Duckie puts it, are absolutely repulsive. She relies on herself to produce her outfits, and they serve their purpose of discouraging contact with those around her and making a statement out of the fact that she can’t afford what the other girls can. Her boss Iona dresses much better, like a true stylista. Duckie is a wannabe hipster, while Blane and Steff take their look from Miami Vice. I like the realism: Andie is actually not that good of a fashion designer, and she chooses Blane over Duckie (that’s how high school works) when given a choice.
Another good point about the film is that the pressure to end the relationship comes from both sides. Andie and Blane like each other, they really do, but they are constantly undermined by both Steff and Duckie (and other, lesser characters). So what’s the problem? Well, as I see it, the problem is the fact that Blane and Andie’s happy ending comes down to an inequality. Steff is defied, while Duckie compromises. Is Steff punished for being a complete jerk? No. Is Duckie rewarded for his sacrifice? No…t really. There’s the possibility that he might be able to hook up with Kristy Swanson (phwoar!) at some point after the credits roll but really? Does that make for satisfying storytelling? The other problem is that Duckie is so damn appealing, while Blane is so insipid. Even though Andie is not a fantastic catch, I want to give her to the Duck if that’s what the Duck wants. Does the Duck have a *right* to Andie? Does he *deserve* her for being nice? Feminism Says No. He perhaps thinks he does, and he needs to change his opinions about how friendship between boys and girls works, but the fact remains that he is the second-best person in the piece and I want him to have a happy ending. A proper happy ending, not just being fobbed off with another female.
But for that, I guess we’ll just have to watch Some Kind of Wonderful.
Justin’s Rating: And she smiles and she says / ‘This is it’ / ‘That’s the end of the joke’
Justin’s Review: Sometimes, whenever my mind unfortunately wanders over to the memory shelves where I store the ending to Pretty In Pink, I have to find a rooftop and launch water balloon bombs at passing pedestrians below for hours until I’ve satisfied the rage within me.
Yes, this review is going to spoil and spoil you rotten. Sorry. I’m just assuming that you — like everyone else in the universe — has seen this film at least once and is passingly familiar with the thespian sourcebook that is Molly Ringwald’s acting career. As my wife said, “She can do one thing really good. She whines.”
80’s teen movie master John Hughes (writing, not directing here — but it is still very much his film) covered massive territory in speaking to (and about) what young adults experience: love, cliques, streaks of anti-authority, rebellion, fashion, music, friends, passions, anger and how to drive your principal to the brink of insanity. While people loved his major flicks back then — The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Weird Science, Sixteen Candles — little did they know that as a director Hughes would be bottling up some of the purest essence of the 1980’s into long-living time capsules for future generations to pop open and drink of deeply.
PIP is a very popular flick with a certain gender of which I do not belong to, but I can still appreciate it for the few times I’ve watched it. Like Hughes’ other films, this one has a simplistic story (poor girl falls for rich guy and wants to go to the prom) handled with surprising depth as it bounces around to examine important relationships between sets of two characters. Andie (Ringwald), said poor girl with a major chip on her shoulder about it, is at the core of most of these. She has a deadbeat dad (Harry Dean Stanton) who can’t get a good job or let go of his ex-wife; loyal friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) who’s not-so-secretly in love with her; a best friend and boss with impeccable style (Ghostbusters’ Annie Potts); and a burgeoning love interest with “richie” Blane (Andrew McCarthy).
I’m less than a huge fan of Molly because of her non-stop expression of teen martyrdom. Yeah, she has problems with the girls at school, boo-hoo, it’s not that fun to watch. And she consistently blows off or doesn’t appreciate the film’s biggest asset, Duckie. Duckie is the reason anyone should watch PIP, because he is (I suspect) most of us geeks summed up aptly into a film character. He’s a fashion nightmare, a constantly running mouth, he wears his heart on his sleeve, lacks any modicum of subtlety, and is forever pining for the girl he can’t have. Throughout the movie everyone disrespects the Duck Man, but we at home grow to love him. How can anyone witness his impromptu mouthing of “You gotta, gotta, gotta have a little TENDERNESS” while dancing like a fool all over the record store and not place this guy head and shoulders above all of the other prats that populate this black-and-white world?
The 80’s, the Time of the Yuppie, saw a slew of movies (comedies, mostly) that targeted the Me Decade’s most hated foes: rich jerks in love with their material girls. Was that enough nostalgic references for you? (There’s a great quote in this movie when Molly says, “Don’t overdose on nostalgia!”) While there are still sharp divisions today between the rich, the poor and all us slobs in between, this particular bug crawled up the 80’s butt and stayed there for a good long while until they saw a proctologist. PIP’s big twist on the whole deal was that this time, the girl was the poor one, instead of the pampered royalty, but this isn’t that worth your while. Both the rich vs. poor theme and the passé Big Prom Scene date this movie horribly but not irreparably.
That’s all well and good, Justin, but what’s so bad about Pretty In Pink, you ask? As I said before, the ending. Spoilers. Yeah.
Rejected by the rich loser who wouldn’t stand up for her (possibly because she didn’t make a lame Julia Roberts-hooker remark), Andie decides to show that she’s not afraid of her classmates or dependent on anyone, and goes to the prom alone. She can’t quite make it to the doors, however, until a certain sharply-dressed Duckie walks down the stairs and into our love. It’s a terrific moment and one that vindicates all of us rooting for Duckie from the first ten minutes on. The world shows its true colors, and Andie finally wisens up to the fact that this guy — the geek, the loser — is the one who really loves her for who she is, and is the one who is faithful to watch over her and be there for her. Awesome. Powerful.
Then they walk in to the prom, arm in arm… and Andie chooses the rich jerk anyway to kiss and end the film with.
What? The? Freaking? Deal?
Reportedly, they shot the ending as you’d hope for: Duckie and Andie hook up. But the studios listened to test audiences, who wanted Blaine to triumph, and the filmmakers bowed to demand. They reshot it. Another version of the tale goes that Molly got to personally choose which guy she’d end up with, which infuriated Hughes and prompted him to rectify it in Some Kind of Wonderful. Either way, Duckie got shoved aside and given a consolation prize — thanks for playing, here’s what you lost! And the movie falls flat on its face for all the years to come.
It doesn’t make sense. Blaine doesn’t really make that strong of a stand for Andie or show great remorse for his spinelessness. He’s just a pretty boy that Andie wants more then Duckie, which goes to show that maybe this movie is more real to life than we’d like to admit. Sometimes the girls go for the idiots over the solid gold dancers anyway. It sucks, but what can you do? Nothing — and an above-par 80’s teen flick is besmirched forever by the foul taint of audience-appeasing tactics. Bleh.
Intermission! [some sources: IMDb]
- Filmed in the same L.A. high school where Grease was made.
- The movie is dedicated to Alexa Kenin and Bruce Weintraub. Kenin, who played Jena, was murdered in New York just after the movie was released.
- When the ending was re-shot, all of the principal actors had to be called back. Andrew McCarthy had already lost a substantial amount of weight and shaved his head for a new role in a New York play. Although he wore an auburn wig, he’s noticeably more gaunt in the re-shot scenes.
- This is Molly Ringwald’s favorite among her own films.
- Here is an external link to a blogpost about the costumes in the movie, including that prom dress.
- Anthony Michael Hall turned down the role of Duckie.
- In Sixteen Candles, “The Rave-Ups” is scrawled on the notebook Molly’s character is carrying while walking down a corridor after study hall. This is the band that plays at the club in PIP.
- Andie puts her lipstick away twice.
Principal: If you give off signals that you don’t want to belong, people will make sure that you don’t.
Iona: I know I’m old enough to be his mother, but when the Duck laid that kiss on me last night, I swear my thighs just went up in flames! He must practice on melons or something.
Steff: I’ve been out with a lot of girls at this school. I don’t see what makes you so different.
Andie: I have some taste.
Duckie: May I admire you again today?
Duckie: What now?
Duckie: Yours or mine? Ours?
Andie: I just want them to know that they didn’t break me.
Andie: You know your talking like that just because I’m going out with Blane.
Duckie: His name is Blane? Oh! That’s a major appliance, that’s not a name!
Duckie: You know what an older women does for me?
Iona: Changes your diapers?
Andie: Were you here long?
Duckie: No, no! Three, four… hours.
Duckie: We don’t have none of this stuff in the boy’s room! Wait a minute! We don’t got none of this… we don’t got doors on the stalls in the boy’s room, we don’t have, what is this? What’s this? We don’t have a candy machine in the boy’s room!
Blane: You couldn’t buy her, though, that’s what’s killing you, isn’t it? Stef? That’s it, Stef. She thinks you’re s**t. And deep down, you know she’s right.
Duckie: Well, that’s very nice. I’m glad. Well here’s… here’s the point, Andie. I’m not particularly concerned with whether or not you like me, because I live to like you and… and I can’t like you anymore. So… so when you’re feeling real low and… and dirty, don’t look to me to pump you back up ’cause… ’cause… ’cause maybe for the first time in your life I WON’T BE THERE!
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Some Kind of Wonderful
- The Breakfast Club
- Not Another Teen Movie