Pretty in Pink

We have HBO again, now that the Sopranos are back.

Yeah, premium channels! I scanned through the movies for stuff I’ve been wanting to see and impulsively taped Pretty in Pink which I have not seen in I don’t know how long. Has to be over 10 years.

It was released in February 1986 which means I was basking in the light at the end of the tunnel of my college education. I have zero memory of my first time seeing the film but I suspect I liked it a lot because I loved Sixteen Candles (84) and Breakfast Club (85) and had some sort of girl crush on Molly Ringwald which is hard to imagine right now.

Two things I do remember about Pretty in Pink was being hypnotized by her amazing accessories drawer, shown in the opening credits and the soundtrack.

On the former: she was poor, yet had oodles of beads and hats and belts. I wanted those accessories. I think I still have the single extra-long strand of plastic “pearls” that I bought for .99¢ at Express at the mall. My quest to amass an impressive accessories collection ended quickly probably because I wanted to spend my money on other things, I was too lazy to scope out thrift shops and garage sales and I didn’t really want another box of crap to lug around every time I moved.

I obtained the soundtrack through a prehistoric method of illegal song sharing that involved taping a vinyl recording onto a cassette tape. I listened to it in my car for years. Psychedelic Furs, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Echo and the Bunnymen and New Order. Still a classic.

My intent in watching the movie now was to see how well it holds up after 20 years and the answer is: I don’t know. Am I watching as my grown up self who no longer squanders valuable brain real estate worrying about accessories or the politics of being under 25, or as my 22 year old self who wanted to have cool bracelets and a cute guy to notice me and oh God, was a fully functioning human being in the 80’s which are flawlessly preserved in this film in a way that is simultaneously horrifying and exhilarating. (Hair! Clothes! ak!)

The story was then and still remains, completely stupid. A girl from the wrong side of the tracks, which is hamfistedly driven home by an establishing shot of a train chugging slowly across the screen and passing in front of a dilapidated shack, falls for a cute, rich guy, played by Andrew McCarthy who between this movie and St. Elmos Fire, we all loved and then something happened and then there was Weekend at Bernie’s and we drove him from our minds, seemingly until forever and then there was Kingdom Hospital and we remembered him and swooned all over again. The guy likes the girl. The girl wants to go to the prom with the guy. But oh, the other mean rich kids, mainly Steff, played in a classic pouffy haired performance by James Spader, try to drive the young lovers apart.

This is a staple of movie and TV plot development where high school is a world of absolute black and white cruelty. I remember high school. I didn’t love it. Yes, there were cool kids and not cool kids. Yes, there was meanness. But I never saw anything like the scene you see in every show where a cool kid will walk up to a not cool kid, trip him as he carries his lunch so that all the other cool people can laugh at him and then tell him that he’s hated because he’s [fill in the blank: poor, smart, of a certain ethnicity, of a certain religion, fat, handicapped, other]. I never saw anyone go to elaborate lengths to publicly humiliate a kid just because he was a nerd or especially because he was poor. The whole rich v. poor thing is more subversive than that and not like it disappears after high school.

Stupid story aside, what makes the movie so watchable is Duckie and to some degree, Iona (the loopy boss at the record store). Who didn’t love Duckie? He had his own funky intro music. Remember the scene when he’s in her room aching with his teen adoration for her? When he tells Harry Dean Stanton he plans to marry her? The Otis Redding number?

“I live to like you” he tells her after he finds out she’s going out with the rich guy and his little Duck heart is broken.

As legend has it, the original ending was to have Andie and Duckie end up together but TEST AUDIENCES which much be a euphemism for dumbasses wanted Andie to end up with major appliance named, Blane. So Andie goes off with Blane at the prom and Duckie’s consolation prize is a winking Kristy “I Ran Off with My Married Skating Partner” Swanson. I still hate the ending.

Two more things if you’re still here reading what has turned out to be a marathon post:

Did you not cry when you saw that abomination of a prom dress Andie made out of the adorable dress Iona gave her? Tragedy.

I thought I blogged about this but can’t find it now. Veronica Mars did an episode where they had an 80’s dance. Meg had on this horrible dress and I was thinking: it looks like that terrible prom dress in Pretty in Pink. At the dance, Duncan appears, dressed as Duckie which was when I figured out Meg’s dress was supposed to be the horrible prom dress in Pretty in Pink. To add an extra layer of irony to the whole thing: here we finally get to see a version of Andie end up with Duckie, yet on Veronica Mars we don’t want Meg to end up with Duncan. We want it to be Veronica (to end up with Duncan)

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