Molly Ringwald has always proved to me to be a fairly versatile actress, as she can convince me that she is the character she’s portraying. She convinces as an insecure, meek teenager in “Sixteen Candles”, a stuck-up rich girl in “The Breakfast Club”, and as a quirky, if unpopular, girl from the wrong side of the tracks in “Pretty in Pink”. “Pretty in Pink” marks Molly Ringwald’s final collaboration with John Hughes, in a partnership I like to refer to as “the Molly Trilogy”. Ringwald was Hughes’ muse during the mid-eighties, until she decided to sever ties with him out of fear of being typecast.
That brings us to “Pretty in Pink”(1986), Ringwald’s last hit movie she made while she was still a teenager. She shines as Andie Walsh, a working class girl with a quirky fashion sense who lives with her unemployed single father, Jack (Harry Dean Stanton), who is still in turmoil following his divorce. Andie ends up acting as a parent to him mostly. While she isn’t particularly liked at school, she has a loyal, if occasionally wacky, friend in Philip F. Dale, A.KA. Duckie (Jon Cryer), who has a rather overt crush on her.
Andie works part-time at funky record store “TRAX”, which is managed by her madcap older friend Iona (Annie Potts), who acts as a substitute parent for Andie. She encourages her to ignore the rich snobs at school, and to attend her upcoming school prom. She has eyes for “richie” Blane McDonough (Andrew McCarthy), who shares her feelings, but is scared of being shunned by his preppy friends, especially by the pompous Steff (a suitably nasty James Spader).
Nevertheless, Blane plucks up the courage to ask Andie out on a proper date. While the party they attend at Steff’s house goes less than smoothly when Steff’s equally stuck-up girlfriend Benny (Kate Vernon) demeans Andie. However, Andie and Blane continue their relationship, despite the obvious objections of their peers, mainly from Duckie, who is still feeling the sting of his own rejection. But as prom approaches, will Andie choose Duckie or Blane? And will either of them appreciate the “unusual” prom dress she dons?
While “Pretty in Pink” is as a John Hughes film, he only wrote the screenplay. The directing credit instead goes to Howard Deutch,who directed a similar film the following year, “Some Kind of Wonderful”, which also focused on the social divides between the upper and working classes. Some have argued about the ending of Pretty in Pink, as well as the boy Andie ends up choosing, which is a divisive choice to most viewers. In fact, the film’s test audience weren’t satisfied with the original ending, so it was promptly altered. This film continues to be one of my top picks of the 80’s, as I feel that all of the actors were credible in their respective roles. Molly Ringwald is as compelling as ever to watch, especially in the moving scene towards the end where she confronts her father about his need to get over his divorce and move on with his life. Andrew McCarthy oozes charisma as the chivalrous cool kid who wants to break free from the mould his friends have placed him in. James Spader adds an interesting contrast to McCarthy as an arrogant jerk we love to hate. Annie Potts offers terrific comic support as the zany, often unpredictable Iona.
But most would agree that perhaps the most memorable character in the ensemble cast is Duckie. Whether he’s lip-syncing to Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness”, remarking that “there’s no candy machine” in the boys’ bathroom after some bullies forcibly push him into the girls’ bathroom, and insisting that “Blane” isn’t a name, but a major appliance , you can imagine that he’s an absolute hoot to watch!
The soundtrack for the movie is just as impressive, with The Smiths and the Psychedelic Furs (who sing the title track). But, for me, the best song included in the movie’s climatic scene has to be “If you Leave” by British band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. This song fits the mood of the scene quite well. In an episode of “The O.C.”, “The Goodbye Girl”, used a cover version of the song by Nada Surf, as a tribute to the movie. I would rate “Pretty in Pink four stars out of five, as it’s a quality 80’s movie that anyone could enjoy, for either the fashions or the tunes!