Saturday, August 8, 2009

That's not a name, that's a major appliance

Three important things about John Hughes:

1. Molly Ringwald picked the wrong guy.

Yeah, Pretty in Pink is a great movie and one of best teen comedies ever. But...

Molly Ringwald's Andie shouldn't have wound up with Blaine, the rich and shallow preppy with the fancy car and flashy clothes.

Andie was a new-wave chick who loved music and hated everything conventional, so how would it make sense for her to ignore Duckie (the guy who knew her the best, who liked the same music and the same clothes, who understood every nook and cranny of her soul)?

Isn't it just wrong for her to go with style over substance? (And let's ignore the now painfully obvious fact that Duckie is clearly in the closet and might be better off winding up with an Andy instead of Andie.)

In the original ending, Andie and Duckie do wind up together. But test audiences hated the ending, so the studio poured tons of money into reshooting it to get Andie and Blane together.

This always seemed wrong.

Hughes must have thought so too because he took the exact same story, flipped the sexes of the characters in the love triangle, and emerged with Some Kind of Wonderful. Only this time, the movie had the right ending -- instead of choosing the popular rich kid with the right clothes, blossoming ugly duckling Eric Stolz winds up with his dorky opposite-sex best friend Mary Stuart Masterson (who liked the same music and knew every nook and cranny of his soul).

2. John Hughes rocked the multiplex.

Music was important to John Hughes. So important that The Breakfast Club opens with a quote from David Bowie's "Changes."

Hughes and his music supervisors had amazing taste in music (Echo and the Bunnymen, Suzanne Vega, Simple Minds, New Order, Paul Young, the Specials, Oingo Boingo, the Vapors, Kajagoogoo, and on and on) and used that music as effectively as anyone making movies in the last 40 years.

The songs he chose became iconic overnight -- even if none of us would ever have Spandau Ballet or OMD perform at our prom.

The music industry thought so, too and gave Hughes his own record label for about ten minutes in the mid-80s. (The label never amounted to much, possibly because Hughes himself seemed to have outgrown teen pop entertainment by 1988 and would try -- with much less success -- to establish himself as a more grown-up writer and director.)

Kelly Stizel, in PopDose's Soundtrack Saturday feature looked at the music from Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. Take a look.

3. John Hughes movies matter.

But not because of the plots -- they tend to be really simple (parents forget teenager's birthday) and somewhat familiar (he likes her, but she likes someone else).

And not because of the dialogue, although it's often funny and memorable ("I can't believe I gave my panties to a geek").

It's because of the characters. Hughes wrote great outsider characters and treated teenagers as multi-dimensional human beings.

Between 1984 and 1987, Hughes created a series of unforgettable teen comedies (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Some Kind of Wonderful). And while the movies featured jocks and geeks and sportos and sluts, Hughes knew instinctively that people are more than their cliques and labels.

We related to his characters because they were complicated, funny, and often misunderstood. Yes, Hughes had an affection for outsiders. But, more importantly, he understood on a deep and instinctive level that all teenagers are outsiders.


Link for Gmail subscribers.


Anonymous said...

Sigh. Thanks for the memories.

Anonymous said...

Sad to think that the last movie he directed was Curly Sue! That's not exactly leaving Hollywood on a high note!

Anonymous said...

Interesting article about the backlash against bands whose songs appeared in John Hughes movies:

Alex said...

I can't quite wrap my mind around Bryan Ferry singing "Don't You (Forget About Me)"...

But of course I love any backhanded Nick Lowe ("Jesus of Cool") references.