PG-13, despite a really in-your-face F-bomb. This is a high school dramedy from the '80s. There's going to be sex, alchohol, smoking...all of the bad things. But they're going to be talked about and alluded to more than the actual visual elements that would necessitate an R-rating. If anything, Pretty in Pink is probably one of the lesser worrisome movies that the Brat Pack made. Still, I'm surprised it got a PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Howard Deutch
How were you so close? Honestly, John Hughes! (I honestly thought you directed and wrote this movie.) I watched it in two shifts. I've always been afraid to watch both Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. It's not the jump scares or the gore. I can handle those. (Someone out there doesn't get the joke and that's okay. It wasn't avery good joke.) It's just that I was burned pretty hard by The Breakfast Club. See, I watched The Breakfast Club with a friend that swore by the movie in college. I was out of high school. I saw it with an obsessive fan. When I didn't like it, my takeaway was that I wasn't the core audience. I'm curious how many of these blogs have that same takeaway. I might not be the core audience of a movie. But I've also prided myself on seeing practically every watershed film that has impacted the zeitgeist. How can I avoid Pretty in Pink?
The first day, I was pleased as punch. Yeah, the acting --shy of James Spader who is possibly doing his best work --is rough. Okay, Jon Cryer earned some respect in this one and I'm always happy to see Annie Potts. But the movie was...good. I mean, if you go into a romantic dramedy from the '80s with expectations of tropes, it's absolutely rad. There's insane costume pieces. There's the version of high school where cliques are so sacrosanct that it becomes a straight up warzone of catty comments. But most importantly, there are pretty people who all love/hate each other. Also, Jon Cryer is making the most out of every cell of film ever. What can I complain about? Annie is a perfect avatar for the audience. She is well-meaning, borderlining on saintly. There's a Cinderella element to the film as a whole. It's just compelling as get out. It was weird. I went upstairs after my workout was over (humble brag) and told my wife that I was absolutely loving Pretty in Pink, a movie that I wouldn't have given the time of day to for 39 years. (Admittedly, if I had given it a chance in the first ten years, there also would have been a weird moment to discuss.)
Then the end happened. Now, I know a lot of people get mad at Pretty in Pink, but I don't think it's for the same reasons I get mad. Maybe my anger is close to others' ideas about problems in this movie. But I want to talk about my nuanced anger. I've heard from some camps that Andie absolutely should have gone with Duckie. Okay, that's a fantasy and a toxic one at that. Other camps say that Duckie is toxic as get-out and shouldn't be in the movie. I'm going to pump the brakes on that for now and talk about that in a second. The problem I have is that Blane straight up gaslights her. He never apologizes for his behavior. Maybe I'm just Team Andie all the way. But when he says, "You didn't believe in me", there's a reason for that. Oh. My. Goodness. Andie's entire thesis statement for this movie is that we shouldn't just people based on economic class, even if it is about punching up. (Note: You are allowed to judge people punching up a little. Everything about this movie when it comes to money almost demonizes what money does to people.)
But Blane sucks. Not for the whole movie. There's a lot where I'm rooting for Blane in the movie. Maybe that's what makes the movie so good for me for a lot of the film. I have the benefit of being an old man in 2023 watching this movie, knowing the cultural history of this movie. I knew that a lot of people love Duckie and a lot of people hate Duckie. I also knew that she didn't end up with Duckie in the end. I didn't know if she ended up with Blane, but I knew that she didn't end up with Duckie. Duckie is the character my sad friends were all holding onto before we grew up and avoided becoming incels. But I was on board the whole Romeo and Juliet thing. It's great. Two cultures who can't possibly accept each other due to stereotypes that, in this case, actually end up being mostly true. It becomes this culture war and there are these two kids who just want to make it through the culture war? I love it. Sure, the movie needs to include a break before getting back together. I know how romantic formulae work. It's necessary because you need to explore the darkness before you see the light. Okay.
But the issue isn't that Blane freaked out a little bit about Andie. It's that he blamed her for the problems that ensued and never apologized. A lot of that was Blane's fault. Okay, I'm going to play Devil's Advocate. Andie accuses Blane of ghosting her. She calls him over and over. He claims that he's being punished for sneaking off. Let's pretend that it's true. I mean, it might be. That seems valid. But Andie then says that Blane saw her in the parking lot and avoided eye contact. When he says he didn't, there's a bit of gaslighting there. She has to question what she thought she saw. But let's go beyond that. Andie accuses him of breaking eye contact and he genuinely didn't do that. It's his responsibility to apologize. I'll even give him the right to defend himself, but then an apology for missing a social cue is completely reasonable. Instead, he just says that he doesn't want to talk. That's pretty bad. But then he lies to her and says that he asked someone else out to prom, which we absolutely know that he didn't. It's actually weird that we use this in his favor at the end. Duckie says, "Look, he's not with anyone." Why is that a good thing? It's just a confirmation that he's been lying about a bunch of things. Andie absolutely shouldn't have gone groveling to Blane (okay, forgiving him without an apology) because Blane is straight up in the wrong.
I don't think she needs to be with Duckie either. Now, this is what I've promised to talk about. Duckie would have been a hero to me in high school. I'm not saying purge Duckie from the story. If anything, I'm arguing that Hughes (I'm giving Hughes all of the credit as screenwriter because I pretend that I know him) is giving the message that Duckie is problematic in this film, a point that was probably missed by a lot of the audience. Duckie is this hanger-on nice-guy archetype. I think Duckie is meant to be a bit gross, but we keep hating to use Duckie as an avatar because he's the most critical reflections of the self. Yes, his intentions are good. He sees value in someone that people tend to disregard. But because he knows that he's sweet and doting, he feels like he is entitled to Andie as a person. It's why he becomes such a villain halfway through the movie. It's really bad. It's also why Duckie makes zero sense for the finale of this movie.
Duckie's agreeing to let Andie go to Blane is almost Exhibit A for a movie that has dug itself into a hole. The entire movie is about big personalities that aren't able to move. Andie is the avatar, sweet girl. Cool. Blane is so mired by his wealth that, when he tries pushing back, he fails. Duckie is an obsessive monster. But no one really comes to grip with the character trait that makes them bad. Duckie just...surrenders? It's not like he had a come-to-Jesus moment that would let him be aware that Andie is a person capable of her own decisions. If anything, Andie is about to relent to Duckie's bullheaded attitudes about love and settle for someone she doesn't care for. Now, someone out there is realizing that Duckie comes to the same conclusion. But reality doesn't work that way. Duckie has been fighting for a goal the entire movie. He's the star of the film, in his mind. His motivations and intentions are the most clear out of anyone in the film. He is about to win and then he just sacrifices the game? He genuinely thinks that Andie finally sees him as a valuable suitor and he's going to sacrifice that? She's smiling. It's not like he sees the misery that he's caused her. He sees that he can bring happiness to this girl who has been trashed his entire life and he loses that for a guy who has treated her badly? It's so against his character that the choice only exists to finish the film.
I've heard about a movie being redeemed by the last minute. Pretty in Pink lost all of my goodwill in the final moment. Nothing makes sense and then it just ends. Andie is going to be gaslit the rest of her life. The end. Boo. No thank you.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.