When John Hughes wrote and directed Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, those films’ breezy tone, cool soundtracks, quotable lines, and visual flair set them apart from the often soulless teen sex comedies that had been cluttering up the multiplex since Porky’s. Hughes showed a verve in his early films that aligned him with classic Hollywood comedy auteurs like Preston Sturges and Frank Tashlin. But by the end of the 1980s, Hughes’ sensibility had shifted more towards Frank Capra-like populism, with mildly bitter undertones. The 1986 high school romance Pretty In Pink is a transitional film for Hughes in a lot of ways—including him handing the script off to someone else to direct, which is something he did more and more for the rest of his career. Howard Deutch brings a little more gravity to Hughes’ story of a hip, working-class teen (played by Molly Ringwald) who falls for a rich kid (Andrew McCarthy) and breaks the heart of her dorky best friend (Jon Cryer). Test audiences pushed Hughes to change Pretty In Pink’s ending—something Hughes and Deutch would atone for by essentially remaking the movie a year later as Some Kind Of Wonderful, and realigning the love triangle to how they originally wanted it—but even before the big finish, the film is a more sour and angry than what preceded it in the Hughes filmography. It does still have a killer soundtrack though (including a live performance by underrated 1980s roots-rock band The Rave-Ups), along with colorful fashions, funny lines, and memorable performances by terrific young actors. To this day, I can’t see James Spader in anything without picturing him as the mean-spirited yuppie Steff, saying, “Are we gonna shoot some trap or what? Because if we’re gonna shoot, we better shake it.” He’ll be delivering that line on Epix2 tonight, when Pretty In Pink airs at 6:20 p.m. Eastern and again at 12:30 a.m.
January 28, 2015 Cable Pick Of The Day