|Pretty in Pink|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 20 August 2002|
John Hughes is widely credited as the godfather of the ‘80s teen comedy genre. Whether or not this view is technically correct, he is probably the most influential figure in that genre. “Pretty in Pink” is perhaps the best example of Hughes’ style, even though Howard Deutsch is the director (Hughes co-executive produced with Michael Chinich and wrote the script). The plot seemed familiar even at the time of the movie’s 1986 theatrical release, but the approach is so genuine and urgent – it captures that everything-is-the-end-of-the-world ambience of high school so completely – that it somehow all feels fresh anyway.
Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) is a high school senior at a school where the social caste divide is like the Grand Canyon. Andie’s crowd, the “zoids,” tend to give a wide berth to the “richies” and vice versa, except when members of the two groups come into contact to exchange insults or blows. It therefore comes as quite a shock to everyone, Andie included, when Blaine (Andrew McCarthy), a polite and handsome young “richie,” determinedly comes courting. This doesn’t sit so well with Blaine’s snobbish friends and it goes over even worse with Andie’s devoted best pal Duckie, who’s head over heels in love with Andie himself. Andie, meanwhile, is torn between suspicion of Blaine’s motives and being swept away with the romance of it all.
Ringwald is natural, affecting and beguiling and McCarthy has a winsome, scared vulnerability that fleshes out a few thin spots in Prince Charming. However, Cryer is the real standout, wonderfully funny as he tries to clown his way into getting the object of his adoration into taking him seriously and wrenchingly easy to identify with in his multi-faceted responses to rejection. Harry Dean Stanton is touching as Andie’s quietly sweet, shattered father and Annie Potts is vivacious as Andie’s adult chum Iona.
It’s a bit of a trip to see movies set in record stores with giant vinyl 33/3 discs everywhere and there’s a classroom scene with a 1986 computer that’s will mentally time-warp anyone old enough to remember devices that primitive and cause younger viewers to blink in disbelief. However, the human interactions feel perfectly contemporary – fashions may change, but cliquishness among teens is eternal.
“Pretty in Pink” had a hit soundtrack, with an opening/closing title track by The Psychedelic Furs (Chapters 1 and 15) and Orchestral Maneouvres in the Dark’s “If You Leave,” which shows up here full force in Chapter 13 in the prom sequence and is threaded more lightly into the beginning of Chapter 14 as the characters move outside. There’s also hilarious use of an Otis Redding track in Chapter 7, as Ducky convulsively lip-syncs his way around the record store, serenading Andie karaoke-style as she watches dumbfounded. However, this isn’t a big sound effects movie. There are a few nice directional touches, as in Chapter 5 when Andie is listening to Ducky sing in another room – when she hears his voice coming through a vent on the screen’s right, we hear him in the right main; when his voice moves to a mid-wall window, we hear him in the center channel. Likewise, during the Redding crooning in Chapter 7, we hear realistic little impact sounds as Ducky bumps into the record racks. For the most part, though, the dialogue is the most important sound we hear, which is reproduced sturdily in the 5.1 mix. The rear speakers loyally bring up the rear, with no noticeable discrete effects.
The print transfer is extremely good, although Andie’s fondness for busy patterns and the characters’ affinity for cluttered surroundings makes for the kind of imagery that gets a little glittery when played back on most monitors. This said, the picture is pretty sharp throughout, with only a few shots in Chapter 8 betraying the age of the print negative.
Deutsch directs with exuberant humor, style, real feeling and a sure sense of pace; it’s a measure of his success with the material that by the climax, Andie’s presence at her senior prom has become a matter of genuine concern to us. Writer Hughes has never been more on-target than he is here, showing compassion for all his characters. The result is a movie that’s still pretty engaging 16 years after it was made.