Molly Ringwald’s Baby Blues in “For Keeps”?

In the late 1980’s, there were a crop of “baby pictures” released, which entailed the main characters looking after an infant. These included “Three Men and a Baby” (1987), “Baby Boom” (1987) ,”Look Who’s Talking” (1989) and today’s topic, “For Keeps”? (1988). It is notable for starring 80’s favourite, Molly Ringwald, in her last leading role. Famous for her collaborations  with director – writer John Hughes in the “Brat Pack” movies, she eventually decided to sever ties with Hughes out of fear of becoming typecast, and wishing to pursue more adult film roles.

Ringwald plays Darcy, a high school senior who dreams of becoming a journalist. She is very much in love with her boyfriend, Stan (Randall Batinkoff). That gets tested when a weekend of sex leads to Darcy becoming pregnant. This prompts Darcy and Stan to have to face the consequences of their actions, and grow up beyond their years. Both of them face pressures from their parents regarding what to do about the baby. Darcy’s single mother Donna (Miriam Flynn) wants Darcy to get an abortion, while Stan’s devoutly Catholic parents (Kenneth Mars and Conchata Ferrell) urge them to go through with adopting the baby.

Ultimately, the young couple decide to keep their baby, and so drop out of high school and get married, but find that the responsibilities of young parenthood clash strongly with their ambitions for their future. Will they manage to tackle their newfound roles, or will they crumble under the pressure?

“For Keeps” had the best of intentions, but the production of this movie ultimately proved to be quite a troubled one. Ringwald mentioned that she originally signed on for the project to alert teenage girls about the realities of becoming parents at an early age. She would later go on to star in the ABC Family (now Freeform) series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”, where she portrayed the mother of a pregnant teenager (Shailene Woodley), for much the same reason.

They also wished to showcase a successful instance of teenage  marriages, and that not all of them end badly. The film’s director, John G. Avildsen, who was known for directing such classics as “Rocky” (1976) and “The Karate Kid” (1984)clashed with Ringwald . Ringwald and Avildsen had differing perspectives on how to address the issue of teen pregnancy, and the script reportedly had to be altered numerous times. Ringwald envisioned the project as a “funny, cautionary tale, whereas Avilsden had “an engaging love story” in mind.

To the movie’s credit, it did address some of the drawbacks of pregnancy, such as financial difficulties and postpartum depression, as Darcy and Stan move to a small apartment, and Darcy struggles to give daughter Thea (short for Theodosia!) the support and care she requires. However, this is presented in an over the top, melodramatic manner, that it can be tricky to care about their problems when they are constantly fighting in an overzealous fashion. It has been acknowledged that Ringwald hoped that this movie would pave the way for more mature projects, and judging from her overacting in some scenes, it is rather apparent. That being addressed, her scenes with Batinkoff come off as touching and emotive. Batinkoff didn’t go on to any major roles after “For Keeps”, but he gives a mature, nuanced performance for the most part.

While “For Keeps” didn’t exactly catapult the careers of anyone involved, it is notable for having an up and coming Pauly Shore in a minor role as one of Stan’s friends. The ending ends on a positive note, but it seemed like everything was tied up a little too hastily and tidily.

I’d recommend this movie if you’re a fan of Ringwald and her earlier work, or enjoy coming of age stories. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of “For Keeps”, I didn’t despise it, either, as there were some moments that were done well, yet some others (such as a toppling Christmas tree) seemed to be thrown in just to illicit some slapstick and laughs into the gravitas. In summation, “For Keeps” earns 3 out of 5 stars.

 

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Why We Won’t Forget About “The Breakfast Club”

 

There are some movies out there that are simply iconic, whether they define a certain genre. “The Godfather” is considered the ultimate gangster thriller, “Rocky” as the top sports flick, and “Star Wars” as the greatest Space fantasy epic. But when it comes to high school movies, one is nearly always lauded as being the one that nearly everyone will remember as being the one flick which actually gets what’s its like to be a teenager- 1985’s “The Breakfast Club”, written and directed by the  king of 1980’s teen movies, John Hughes (1950-2009).

The Plot in a Nutshell:   March 24th, 1984, Shermer High School. Five high school students, all different stereotypes, who would never interact with each other under normal circumstances,  are forced to spend a  Saturday together – in detention. There’s John Bender, the aggressive, rebellious tough guy (Judd Nelson), Brian, the intellectual, amiable nerd, (Anthony Michael Hall), Claire, the pristine and pampered rich girl (Molly Ringwald), Andy, the acclaimed wrestler (Emilio Estevez), and Allison, the anonymous eyeliner-clad   loner (Ally Sheedy). They appear to have nothing in common except for their detained status and contempt for their overzealous, pompous principal, Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason). Initially, they do nothing but snipe at each other, and keep their distance, but as the day gradually wears on,they begin to learn about each of their home lives, and how there’s more to each of them than their first impressions suggested…

Actor/Character Observations:   Everyone gets a chance to shine, and not a single cast member can be faulted for their performances.  Hall is appealing as the sweet, vulnerable nerd with a hidden dark side, and Ringwald manages to make a typical snobby popular girl archetype into a sympathetic character. Estevez shows off his emotional acting chops in a rather touching scene. Sheedy makes the most out of playing a character who doesn’t even speak for most of her screentime, so she has to rely reacting to the others, until she slowly comes out of her shell .She and Estevez get some engaging moments together.  Nelson is at the core of most of the proceedings as  the thug whose wisecracks and bravado mask some deep-seated emotional problems.

The adult characters aren’t as strong as the teenagers, but Gleason delivers in his role as a grouchy disciplinarian who has lost touch with his youth. Finally, John Kapelos, as Carl the Janitor, acts as a foil to Vernon, in that he can easily relate to the kids, and has much more common sense than Vernon.

 My Favourite Scene(s) in “The Breakfast Club”: Where do I even begin with this category? There’s the crazily awesome dancing sequence where the gang just lets loose and dance together in the library, the club’s big emotional therapy session, and Bender’s “Eat my Shorts” verbal smackdown to Vernon (which may or may not have influenced Bart Simpson’s catchphrase only a few years later) .

But the most poignant moment has to be that after the group have emotionally opened up about their respective issues, they deduce that they’ll never be like their abusive parents. This prompts Allison to utter  “When you grow up, your heart dies”. This line alone sums up the belief that once we grow up, we lose all touch of the innocence and the possibilities that supposedly attends our teenage years. It’s after this scene that our protagonists appear willing to defy the  fate of becoming just as cold and uncaring as their parents before them.

My Least Favourite Scene(s) in “The Breakfast Club”: The scene that I always find difficult to watch in an otherwise fantastic movie is the one which takes place after Claire shows off her “lipstick trick” in front of the others (i.e. her ability to put on lipstick using her breasts). Bender is the only one who is unimpressed, and proceeds to cruelly mock and belittle her in front of everyone else.  Granted, he did have a rough home life, but it was still no excuse for reducing the poor girl to tears.

Ratings and Recommendations: So, after watching the movie again, do I still like it as much as I did? Well, after watching it again, I have to admit that it’s still one of my top movies. Even though it had been a while seen I had last viewed it, I still recall relating to the characters and their plights. The reason that this movie continues to relate to modern audience  members is because nearly everyone can identify with the protagonists. Even if you don’t empathize with the kids, you can still feel for Carl and Vernon, much like my friend. It delivers the underlying message is that nobody is alone, and we’re all going through similar issues in our lives, without being preachy.  “The Breakfast Club”earns a total of 4 and a half out of 5 stars from me.

So what do you think?  Is “The Breakfast Club” a classic or just plain overrated? Which clique did you fit into in school? Feel free to let me know! But for now, I’ll let Simple Minds have the last word with their iconic ditty, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. Until next time!

Molly Ringwald Proves Perfection in Pink

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!