Pretty in Pink, by Albert W. Vogt III

My fairly recent viewing of Not Another Teen Movie (2001) made me realize that I had never seen Pretty in Pink (1986).  That is a bold statement for a native Chicagoan and lover of many of John Hughes’ films.  He is responsible for writing and/or directing a slew of movies during the 1980s, all of which are centered on my beloved home and its surrounding environs.  While I write this review, I am currently wearing a t-shirt with my beloved city’s skyline on it, and below that it says, “I still call it home.”  And I do.  I always will.  Whenever I miss home, I can put on one of his films and get my nostalgia fix.  What is nice about them, too, is that they show a time and place when and where I was born.  Take today’s film, for example, Pretty in Pink.  Set in Elgin, a rather affluent suburb of Chicago a few towns north of where I was born, it shows what life was like for a young me.  Granted, I was not in high school at that time, and the subject matter is a little more adult than what is appropriate for any six-year-old in any day and age.  Still, watching it is, in a sense, a trip down memory lane.

The first thing you see in Pretty in Pink is an area of Elgin that you would not associate with it today.  That is because our protagonist, Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald), is one of those girls from the other side of the tracks.  Their lower income situation is owed to the fact that her father, Jack (Harry Dean Stanton), has been unable to keep a steady job since his wife and Andie’s mother left them.  In addition to getting herself up and ready for school, she must also rouse dad, who promises to look for work.  She does have her ow car, which she drives to school and is greeted by one of the “richies,” the term for the kids that live on the upscale side of the tracks.  This is Steff McKee (James Spader), and his family’s social position gives him an arrogance that repulses Andie when he tries to ask her out.  Instead, she bustles by on her way to class, and meets her best friend Philip F. “Duckie” Dale (Jon Cryer).  Duckie is in love with her, and it is obvious, but she prefers to ignore it and remain friends.  There is another person who is interested in her, though he has yet to voice his feelings, and that is another richie: Blane McDonough (Andrew McCarthy).  After school, Andie goes to her job at a record store in the middle of town, run by its proprietor and her friend, Iona (Annie Potts).  It is there that Blane first approaches Andie, doing so shyly but respectfully.  This happens to coincide with Andie worrying about the upcoming senior prom and not having a date for it.  Iona encourages her to go with or without being on the arm of a guy, but her dilemma is overheard by Blane.  As such, they begin talking and eventually start going on dates.  Their first rendezvous is at a party hosted by Steff, with all the inappropriate behavior you expect from one of these cinematic high school soirees.  It is evident to many there that Andie does not belong, and she is bullied.  Seeking to get away, Andie takes Blane to a rock n’ roll club she frequents with Iona and Duckie.  They are there, and Duckie acts in a hostile manner towards Blane, prompting them to leave from that location as well.  Once they are on their own, they have a much better time, and a romance begins to blossom.  Still, Andie is reluctant to show Blane where she lives, even though it eventually turns out to be where he asks her to the prom when he finally takes her home.  The next day, however, Blane begins receiving the peer pressure about being associated with Andie, and he lets it get to him.  Meanwhile, Andie’s enthusiasm is evident to Jack, who buys her a dress for the occasion despite still being unemployed.  This leads to a difficult conversation between them over what had happened with Andie’s mother, and how it continues to affect Jack.  For Blane, his fear of the social disapprobation of his relationship with Andie leads to him to begin avoiding her phone calls, and the girl herself at school.  When she finally is able to confront Blane, he claims that he had already asked somebody else to the prom.  As she leaves severely hurt, Duckie picks a fight with Steff, blaming him as the cause for all this drama.  Andie goes to Iona for comfort, and she encourages her to still go to the prom, giving her old prom dress to Andie.  Following some soul searching, Andie creates a new gown out of the two dresses she had been given in the title color.  Duckie is the first one to meet her there, and I thought that perhaps this would be the moment that they finally get together.  But, no, they simply reconcile their friendship.  I know how you feel, buddy.  Instead, eventually she sees Blane there, who has told off Steff for his entitled, boorish behavior.  Blane apologizes to Andie, tells her he loves her, and leaves.  With Duckie’s encouragement, she goes after him and they have their first real kiss in the parking lot.  So, here is to happy endings.

In Pretty in Pink, Andie is the perfect character to examine in a Catholic sense.  She has a confidence about her that is born of her good character, and yet it is tested when she meets Blane.  Love can make you do some great things, and terrible things.  The good will always be that which is inspired by God.  He does not care about the condition of your house, or whether or not you are dating the most popular boy.  The main thing he wants is for us to treat one another as we would want to be treated ourselves.  You know, living by the golden rule.  Still, when you are young, it is hard to understand the wisdom of such truisms when the boy you do like, who is also immature, makes some poor life decisions.  The converse of these wise sayings is exemplified by Steff.  He believes that because his family has money, he can behave as he pleases.  The worst example of this, particularly from a Catholic perspective, is when he casually talks about impregnating girls.  The notion here is that his riches will take care of any mistake he makes.  He also assumes that it will buy him love, and when it does not work with Andie, he treats her monstrously.  What makes this so different from Andie is when she says how when somebody says that they do not believe in her, she does not believe in them.  That may seem like a draconian way of dividing humanity, but hell is full of people who did not believe in God.  To be clear, one should love one’s enemies as God commands us.  However, it is the ones who believe in us that will help us get to our goal in Heaven.

One last kind of interesting thing about Pretty in Pink is to see a young James Spader.  If you know what he looks like now, and see him in this film, you would think they were two different people.  This is not the most ringing endorsement for the film, but there are other reasons to watch it.  You do not have to be from the Chicago area, either, to appreciate it.


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