Are You With Us?: Pretty in Pink
By Ryan Mazie
February 27, 2012
This weekend, the alcohol, drug, and sex-filled Project X takes a glimpse at the world of teenagers that most parents wouldn’t even want to peek in to. But if we flash back 26 years ago, another teenage romp hit theaters, but with a much more wholesome, less wince-worthy subject matter. That film is last of the John Hughes/Brat Pack trilogy – Pretty in Pink.
Before I continue, I must make the confession that I have never seen this movie before. Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Vacation, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are all Hughes-ian films I have seen multiple times (more so the last three), yet Pink has never made it onto my radar until now.
Since this is a film almost everyone (besides me) has seen before, I will keep the plot summary brief. Molly Ringwald stars as the book-smart, diamond-in-the-rough, Andie Walsh. With an unemployed father (Harry Dean Stanton) and a runaway mother, Andie is a thrift-store queen. Considered an outcast by the rich students at her high school, Andie is shocked when her rich dream crush Blane (Andrew McCarthy) asks her to be his Senior Prom date. The dream ends quickly, though, once the couple succumbs to their friends’ sharp opinions. Unsure if she is being used as a social experiment, Andie must choose between the rich and sweet Blane or Duckie (Jon Cryer), a goofy Casanova-at-heart who has an unreciprocated love for Andie.
Released almost a year after the hit The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink would wind up with $5 million less at the overall box office. Opening at $6 million, Pink wrapped up with a tidy $40.5 million ($86.5 million adjusted). However, only a few short months later, the John Hughes-directed Ferris Bueller’s Day Off overshadowed Pretty in Pink by almost doubling its box office.
While earning good notes from the press (the film sits at a pretty 81% fresh on Rottentomatoes.com), it is the weakest reviewed Hughes-written Brat Pack film and my least favorite of the three. I must agree. Certainly not a bad film, Pretty in Pink just feels flighty compared to the stronger efforts of Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. Pink’s commentary on class seems been there, done that and the romantic triangle, while interesting, doesn’t draw in much audience investment.
Ringwald is the highlight of the film, bringing naturalness to her teen angst. A magnetic performer, Ringwald feels like the freshest thing about the stale rich boy/poor girl in love plotline. Cryer is loose-limbed in a performance that is slightly too big for reality, but rakes in the laughs to keep the film chugging along its worn out path. McCarthy impressed me as the kind-hearted rich kid who balances being rich without being a douche, and being nice without being a sap, with such ease that he has truly been overlooked.
While Hughes only produces and writes Pretty in Pink, his fingerprints can be seen all over the film. Directed by Howard Deutch (his resume reads like bad films of forgotten flops), Pretty in Pink is a pleasant and empty romp that falls mid-road amongst the countless reiterations of the plot.
Pretty in Pink acted as a marker for many things. For one, it was the end of Ringwald’s leading lady career. Roger Ebert compared her to Elizabeth Taylor in his review for Pretty in Pink. Unfortunately, Hughes broke it off with Ringwald after she turned down a role he offered her in Some Kind of Wonderful. Unhappy with the ending of Pink, Hughes essentially remade the film as Wonderful and released it a year later. While hitting the mark with critics, it raked in less than half of Pink’s box office.
As Hughes went on to success (minus Some Kind of Wonderful), Ringwald faltered without his guidance. Although getting leading roles, her next five major releases were trashed by critics and all failed to crack $20 million; some couldn’t even muster more than $10 million. By the ‘90s, Ringwald was all but written off.
Pretty in Pink also signified the end of the Brat Pack. The next few films (with the exception of About Last Night…) were embarrassing flops that barely made more than the opening weekends of their earlier efforts.
Although the weakest out of Candles and Breakfast, Pink still has redeeming factors - namely the soundtrack, which launched OMD's hit “If You Leave.” An eclectic mix of synth-pop, soul, and dance, I wished the movie was as risky as the tunes that it included.
With Project X being a stark high school contrast to Pretty in Pink, this week’s film reminded me what was so special about the Hughes era of filmmaking – you didn’t need an R-rating to be a hit. There is something sweet about not needing to be raunchy. While this isn’t a knock against the hilarious Project X, it is my little PSA to studio heads that a movie can appeal to the teen-set without being whitewashed or laden with swears.
Criticized for being unoriginal and slightly shoddy, there is a reason why this plot gets retold time after time – the story is just a relatable classic. With charismatic performances and being a part of a trio of films that elevates its status, Pretty in Pink is certainly with us.
While Blane is suave and cool, Duckie is scattered and quirky. Being recycled countless times, Pretty in Pink isn’t the best version of this story, but it has its own characteristic charm with its idiosyncratic cast and side plots. So essentially, this film ended up being a Duckie; being loved for its awkward spots and not over polished values.
Verdict: With us
7 out of 10