In a society that places an emphasis on adolescent social and physical standards, many moviegoers, especially teenagers, have grown accustomed to movies that epitomize these values. Whether it be a typical boy-meets-girl, girl-likes-different boy scenario, or a more sophisticated illustration of girl-meets-boy, boy-likes-different girl, it seems that “teen movies” travel in an endless circle-like path of repetitive themes, plots, and actors. If you’ve seen “She’s All That,” then you’ve experienced “Ten Things I Hate About You.” But, cinematically, what spawned this petty cycle of unoriginal sap stories?
Surprisingly, all modern teenage films are paying homage to one ingenious filmmaker: John Hughes. Many of the director’s films have influenced other filmmakers to follow in his footsteps; one of these movies is “Pretty in Pink.” Directed by Howard Deutch and written by Hughes, Pink features the talents of Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer, and Andrew McCarthy.
Seen in today’s light, the film’s plot is dull and unoriginal. Ringwald is Andie Walsh, a poor girl ashamed of her home and family life. Her mother abandoned her years earlier, and she lives with her unemployed father (Harry Dean Stanton). Andie works in a record store and bears a wardrobe resembling filthy rags. A crush is developed between her and a rich kid at her high school named Blane (McCarthy). And since there has to be a love triangle in teen movies, Andie has a best friend named Duckie (Cryer) who considers himself a trickster capable of clowning his way into another girl’s heart. Perhaps subtlety wasn’t the fad for character names in 80’s films, because Duckie’s personality is strikingly-similar to that of Donald Duck.
The gist of the movie focuses is that the rich boy and the poor girl love each other, the rich boy’s friends are heartless snobs and the girl wants to conceal her shabby home, and eventually a love relationship emerges between the two (after Duckie realizing he’s not meant for Andie). Although the movie’s plot is self-explanatory, its execution reveals basic truths applicable to all teenagers. There are some very quiet, awkward moments that urge the audience to think, “I remember feeling that at 16!” The movie also explores the concept of adolescents’ dreams transcending their confidence.
Judging from her performance, Ringwald is an actress capable of projecting emotions of intense fear and sadness without seeming cheesy or unrealistic. Her scenes with Cryer are very authentic, truthful, and believable. It’s no surprise that after appearing in “Sixteen Candles” and the immensely popular, thought-provoking “Breakfast Club,” Hughes would carry Ringwald on to become a member of the “brat pack” cast of his adolescent eighties films. Hughes continued to make the teen comedies/dramas that have shaped our hormonal cinematic experiences, like “Ferris Bueler’s Day Off,” before moving on to more child-oriented endeavors like “Home Alone.”
In retrospect, “Pretty in Pink” provides evidence that there is a reason why teenage stories never seem to die. Even twenties years later, when we are familiar with all the clichés and algorithmic developments, audiences still find the movies entertaining. It is assumed that Andie and Blane will get together, yet when it actually happens, there is great satisfaction. Pink provided future filmmakers with a formula for films of this type: teen heartthrob+hip soundtrack+friendship being built across barriers=money spent by teenage moviegoers. There is a limitless supply of modern teenage movies because they boost young people’s confidence when they’re feeling low. Their aim is to allow their confidence to surpass their dreams, until they’re one and the same.