By Richard Winters
My Rating: 5 out of 10
4-Word Review: Poor girl dates preppy.
Andie (Molly Ringwald) is a teen girl from the poor side of town who one day while working at a record store meets Blaine (Andrew McCarthy) a rich, handsome, preppy kid that she immediately takes an interest in. A few days later he asks her out much to the dismay of her geeky friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) who has a secret crush on her. Blaine’s friend Steff (James Spader) is also angered about it because he had asked Andie out earlier and been rejected and these two factors cause a strain on their relationship and forces both of them to consider ending it.
One of the problems that I had right away with the film is the fact that with the exception of Ringwald, the majority of the cast who are playing these so-called teenagers were in reality way past adolescence and looking too mature. Kate Vernon, who plays a snotty girl named Benny, actually looks older than her female instructors. McCarthy and Cryer were also in their 20’s and manage to pull it off, but Spader who was 25 at the time doesn’t. He gives a great performance nonetheless, but I kept wondering with so many star struck teens out there dying to get into the business that the producers couldn’t have gotten performers that were more at the actual age of the characters.
Ringwald is fantastic in a vehicle tailored made for her and one that she really cruises with. I particularly liked her facial expressions while she attended a frat party and the moment where she decides to go to the prom despite not having a date simply to show them that they can’t ‘break her’ is fantastic. However, I wasn’t so crazy about the inferred idea that she was dating Blaine simply because he was from a rich family and could help her escape from her otherwise poor/ humble surroundings as it toys with the concept of ‘marrying-into-wealth’ which is too old fashioned. A young lady today should feel that she can work her way up the social/economic ladder on her own and not be dependent on some guy to do it for her.
I had equally mixed feelings involving Duckie. Cryer certainly gives an engaging performance, but the character’s excessive and constant need for attention-seeking humor gets overdone and I wished it had been toned down and the character made to be a little less geeky. The part where he has an instant meltdown when he finds out that Andie is dating someone else is also too extreme as it makes him seem dangerously possessive especially since he and Andie were just friends. Later when he is rude to Blaine at a nightclub only helps to make him look even more emotionally unstable.
I had this same issue with Steff who gets aggressively angry at Blaine for dating Andie and even threatens to end their friendship because of it, which to me was a complete overreaction. Sure he might be upset about it, but in real-life I think he would’ve expressed his displeasure in more subtle ways,or even just gotten over it since he was apparently sleeping with Benny who was a lot hotter looking than Ringwald anyways. In reality people generally want to hide their hurt feelings and not respond so overtly when things don’t go their way because they are usually smart enough to realize it will just make them look like a sore loser otherwise.
The Blaine character has problems too although different from the other two. The first issue is when he is at the record store and hands Andie an album cover showing Steve Lawrence, a famous crooner from the early ‘60s and frequent guest star on the old ‘Carol Burnet Show’ and asks Andie if he’s ‘hot’ or ‘trendy’. Now, I was teenager myself during the ‘80s and was in no way ever affiliated with the ‘hip crowd’, but even I and my nerdy friends where savvy enough to know that Steve Lawrence would never be considered an idol with ‘80s teens nor humiliate ourselves by asking anyone if he was. The fact that he does ask makes him seem almost mentally ill or someone who’d been living in a cave, which would be enough for most young women not to want to date him because they would think he was ‘weird’ or strangely disconnected.
The scene that takes place in the school’s library where he sends her a message via the school’s compute and even somehow manages to upload a picture of her is also dumb. Remember this was BEFORE the internet and sending emails and communications via a computer weren’t common or likely especially when they weren’t even their own, but public ones instead. In a later conversation this gets described as a ‘computer trick’ that he knows, which I guess suffices as being screenwriter John Hughes’ feeble attempt at ‘explaining it’.
In a lot ways this seems like just a basic reworking of the formula that was already used with much better success in Sixteen Candles with Cryer playing an off-shoot of Anthony Michael Hall’s character and Harry Dean Stanton as Ringwald’s sensitive father substituting for the one played by Paul Dooley in the first film. I was also disappointed that we never even briefly get to see Andi’s mother who was divorced from her father but gets discussed quite a bit and there’s even a picture of her sitting on Andie’s bedside table, which to me should’ve been enough to justify some sort of appearance by her at some point.
I liked the scene, at least on an emotional level, where Duckie physically attacks Steff after he makes a disparaging remark about Andie, but on the logical end it’s off-kilter. For one thing Andie wasn’t aware of the remark and for Duckie to take on some guy who was clearly much bigger than him it would’ve made more sense for her to have heard it and been hurt by it in order for him to come so aggressively to her defense. A later scene that takes place at the prom where a super-hot girl turns around and out-of-nowhere shows an immediate interest in Duckie who’s just standing there seemed too dream-like and fanciful.
I never saw this film when it first came out and only reviewed it now at the suggestion of some female friends in order to commemorate the 30th anniversary of its release and I have to be honest I was expecting something a lot better especially since it has attained such a strong cult following. Maybe it’s the nostalgic value that gives it its allure, but on a purely cinematic level it’s average at best with a screenplay that only touches the surface of the teenage experience while relying too heavily on age-old and very obvious dramatic devices to help propel it.
My Rating: 5 out of 10
Released: February 28, 1986
Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes
Director: Howard Deutch
Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube
I found this movie to be a somewhat sheltered microcosm of caste society in America. but the message then is still relevant now. while this was easily the thinnest and most commercialized of Hughes’ teenage angst flicks, it still holds a place in coming of age interpretations. the dramas, no matter how petty on the surface, play on today in an endless, reinvented loop colored by race, sexual preference, naïveté and entitlement in every high school, every day, in every state. plus, it boasts one of the best soundtracks ever!