'80s Movie Month: "Pretty in Pink" Review

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

'80s Movie Month: "Pretty in Pink" Review

Rating: PG-13
Length: 96 minutes
Release Date: February 28, 1986
Directed by: Howard Deutch
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Romance

One of the 1980s' quintessential Brat Pack movies, "Pretty in Pink" is writer John Hughes' take on love, popularity and overcoming obstacles in fictional Shermer, Illinois. A fairly formulaic film, "Pretty in Pink" balances some of the same '80s acting darlings that star in Hughes' other films against a plodding plot that ensures that losers sometimes win and winners may be losers. Regardless of its sometimes formulaic storyline and often stereotypical portrayals of '80s-era teens, "Pretty in Pink" remains a cult favorite decades later.

Many stars who would rise to widespread prominence in the 1990s and beyond got their start in John Hughes' Brat Pack films, and the cast of "Pretty in Pink" is testimony to that fact. New viewers may be astounded by some of the baby faces they spot in "Pretty in Pink" versus the grown-up versions seen on the big and little screens today. Although they were far lesser known at that time, the big names that cram this movie's credits include Molly Ringwald, Annie Hall, Jon Cryer, Andrew McCarthy, and Andrew Dice Clay. The performances delivered by this cast mesh well with the movie's overall message about teen insecurities and social issues—and while hairstyles and slang may change over time, this message still resonates with younger audiences today.

Molly Ringwald plays Andie Walsh, a good girl being raised by a down-on-his-luck father (Harry Dean Stanton). She has no idea what it would be like to be popular but dreams about it anyway. She and her sidekicks Duckie (Jon Cryer) and Iona (Annie Hall) band together in their misfittedness and seem scripted to demonstrate the overcoming power of friendship and loyalty against the tides of high-school fickleness. An audience can't help but love Ringwald's character, with her earnest face and voice and her belief in the world around her. It's not hard to see why she captures the affections and devotion of both Cryer's Duckie and the movie's clichéd rich kid, Blane (Andrew McCarthy).

After Ringwald, Jon Cryer's Duckie is the film's most memorable character. In fact, fans of "Two and a Half Men" may see the roots of Cryer's Alan Harper portrayal in a film several decades older. Perhaps Cryer's ability to channel the feelings of a character that the mainstream may consider a loser and show a willingness to keep on trying is what makes both Duckie and Alan Harper resonant characters. Of course, in a formula film, a viewer might expect poor Duckie to come from behind and win the love of Andie over the sheer hunkiness and popular crowd-backed Blane. With any other writer, that would probably happen. John Hughes is a master of misleading and surprising-yet-sometimes-trite endings, however, so a "Pretty in Pink" viewer has to wait and see what may come.

While Andie works to overcome social stigmas and cross barriers between cliques, the clock is counting down to prom night. Where else could this movie's title come from than her eventual wardrobe? Crafting her own fashion from a second-hand piece and Iona's cast-off gown, Andie shows Ringwaldian spunk in showing up at the prom with a brave face and lots of hope but apprehensions nonetheless. Will she find happiness with the devoted Duckie or end up with a Blane, who becomes emboldened by breaking free of the popular crowd?

By and large, the adorable and engaging characters in "Pretty in Pink" go far to surmount the overall aura of stereotypes and assumed outcomes. For those who came of age in the 1980s, this movie may well serve as a reminder of what once was. Younger audiences can likely still relate to the often insurmountable social barriers faced in high school and the fact that outcomes can often be predicted by formula.

The loyal fans who form the cult following of this and other Brat Pack movies such as "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," and "St. Elmo's Fire" may still harbor some disappointment that more of the Pack's actors didn't appear in this title. Could Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, or Ally Sheedy have added more to "Pretty in Pink" than its actual cast already did? Probably not, even though Hall was original cast in the Cryer role. The marriage of the chosen actors and their scripted roles helps this movie to rise above its sometimes mechanical plot, stand out among the many Brat Pack films, and retain an enthusiastic audience even today.

Rating: 3 out of 5