Is there a girl alive in the Western world who grew up in the 1980s and who hasn’t seen this awesome, awesome film? If you haven’t watched it – or if you haven’t watched it since the 1980s – I urge you to do so, immediately. It distills perfectly all of the crucial elements of fine teen film-making in that tragic decade and it has the most important thing to any 1980s teen film’s success: Molly Ringwald.

We don’t habitually rent this kind of film (well, I would happily do so, but Tristan’s appetite for retro is more limited than mine), but I fancied a bit of a change from our typical diet of Serious Drama. And we’ve been renting a lot of films recently: we’ve been in our rented house for more than a fortnight, living with virtually no furniture and having at our disposal only a laptop on which to watch DVDs. Luckily, our local video shop is well stocked and has good deals. I freely admit that I pressed play on Pretty in Pink and watched it with an almost religious devotion. It was absolutely splendid.

You all know the story, right? Molly Ringwald plays Andie, a girl from the poor side of town who remains relentlessly chirpy in the face of her father’s ongoing unemployment. Andie makes her own clothes or customises charity shop bargains and her ‘thing’ is that she always wears something pink. Andie’s really clever and attends a very good high school by way of a scholarship. We know about her cleverness early on because she wears glasses: always a sure sign of being smart in movieland.

Andie’s best mate at school is Duckie, an unorthodox young man who worships her and who dresses in a beatnik, ‘alternative’ type of way, with many outfits looking like he’s donned every item in his wardrobe. He seems to be a slacker when it comes to academic work, so I’m not sure how he’s wound up at the posh school – a scholarship seems unlikely in his case.

The school is the backdrop for an ongoing war between the rich kids (or ‘richies’) and the poor kids. Of course, the actors playing the rich kids all look like they’re pushing 35. For example, this is Steff, the baddie of the film:

He wears a light-coloured suit like that every single day. He looks and talks like a jaded Miami divorcee. It’s brilliant. Steff should be the star of a follow-up film. Anyway, early on Steff tries to hit on Andie and we learn that he’s been asking her out on a regular basis, only to be denied at every turn. Steff isn’t a guy to take rejection lightly – we know this because he calls her a ‘bitch’.

I really like Andie’s car.

A couple of other things happen early in the film: Andie gets hassled by rich girls (with awesome, back-combed hairdos) for her dorky clothes; and Andie sneaks a peek or two at Blaine, the resident sensitive rich boy heart-throb. This is Blaine:

What a drip! I don’t see what Andie sees in him. We know that he’s less of a cool dude than Steff because he doesn’t wear a white suit to school; he wears light-coloured linen separates and pale blue shirts, instead. You know, like all the boys that you and I went to school with, back in the day.

And I’ve got to say that I think the rich girls might have a point vis-a-vis Andie and her unfortunate clothes:

The film goes on. We get the idea that Andie takes Duckie and his devotion for granted. She’s a bit of a cow towards him, actually: she deliberately goes to a club that she knows won’t let him in; and she looks at him with a ‘smelling a fart’ face when he performs a fantastic lip-synching performance of ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ for her amusement.

Duckie’s performance is appreciated more by Iona, Andie’s record shop co-worker. Iona is what is best described as ‘kooky’, demonstrated by the wide range of looks that she sports throughout the film. Andie treats Iona like a replacement mother (because we later learn that her real mother just up and left her and her feckless father one day, when she was 14).

Andie and Blaine get together in what might be the earliest recorded example of cyber-dating. This is what Andie wears on their first date:

If you were in your late 60s and going out on a first date with some dashing chap that you met at lawn bowls, this is the perfect outfit. Hilariously, Blaine asks her if she needs to go home and change first. *high fives Blaine*

The date is a bit of a disaster. For one thing, Duckie is horrified that Andie would date ‘the enemy’ – a rich kid – and acts like a toddler who has been denied a lollipop. And then Blaine decides to take Andie to a party at Steff’s house, even though she tells him that it’s a bad idea.

The party is full of rich kids having what looks to be a perfectly good time: drinking alcohol, dancing around in their underwear, hooking up. Andie parades through the place as though there’s some debauched orgy going on and doesn’t really make any effort. It’s at this point that I think I would have had serious reservations, had I been Blaine. They end up hanging out in a bedroom (as you do), and have a run-in with Steff and one of the bitchy rich girls, both of whom make it clear that Andie isn’t welcome.

The star-crossed lovers then try to spend the evening in Andie’s world, at the club where Duckie’s never allowed in (although the doorman makes an exception when Iona pretends that Duckie’s her son. Ew.) But that doesn’t go well either; Duckie is really rude to poor, hard-done-by Blaine. So the date ends up being a bit of a flop and, to top off the evening, Andie throws a wobbly when Blaine wants to take her home – she’s embarrassed about him seeing where she lives (a perfectly normal house, not a shack or anything). But Blaine has his manly way and drops her off, and asks her to the prom. This prompts Andie to just about snog his face off. Turns out that she did want to go to the prom, after all.

We see one subsequent date, which is spent in the stable of a country club. What’s with these two? Why can’t they just go to a diner, or catch a movie or something? The whole ‘Romeo and Juliet’ thing is a little over the top. Andie needed to just unwind a bit, have a vodka and tonic, and head back to Steff’s party. That looked like a good night.

Next up, we have a nice daughter/substitute mother scene with Andie and Iona, where they talk about proms and Iona gets out her awesome 1960s prom dress and puts it on (and puts her hair into a massive beehive, in case we’d forgotten about her kookiness).

At this point in the film you remember Andie’s track record of cutting up clothes and start to fear for that cute dress. Andie then goes prom dress window-shopping (and even the woman working at the dress shop treats her like she’s an unwashed peasant and goggles at her weird outfit). Andie overhears one of the bitchy rich girls trying on a frock and looks all wistful and self-pitying.

Now it all gets very teenaged and angst-ridden. Andie has a big fight with her father, who admits that he’d lied to her about getting a job – it’s then that we hear all of the mother-related drama. She pretty much ruins a happy moment because her father has just bought her a really grim-looking pink frock to turn into her prom dress and she goes off at him about how he might of paid for it (and we never do find out, so he might be a drug runner). But her high emotion is understandable because Blaine’s gone cold on her and – get this – doesn’t call her back one night, even though she has left three messages! The cheek of him! She’s a bit stalker-y, I reckon. Of course, we know that Blaine’s got cold feet because Steff has stuck the boot in and asked him what in tarnation he’s doing, ‘dating trash’ (and Blaine doesn’t actually defend Andie’s honour when she’s called ‘trash’, which is dodgy).

So Andie deals with this challenging issue by stalking Blaine at his locker the following day, wearing this outfit and looking like an abandoned puppy:

She has an all-out screaming fight with him (she’s the only one screaming, mind), and Blaine does the dirty by claiming that he’d forgotten about already inviting somebody to the prom. Cue a lot of tears and heartache for poor Andie.

Duckie later overhears Steff being horrible about Andie in a conversation with Blaine and tries to defend her honour, but he’s a bit of a weakling, so it doesn’t go well. And to be fair, Steff’s main point was that Blaine might want to reconsider spending any time with a girl who will shriek at him like a harridan in the middle of a crowded school corridor. I fear that Steff may have a valid point here.

A few days pass and Andie cries on Iona’s shoulder. At this point, Iona has started a serious relationship with a pet shop owner and has abandoned her kookiness and started dressing like a normal person in a red shirt, white jacket and knotted pearls. She’s even rocking a curly mullet. All a woman needs is the love of a good man to save her from kookiness and fashion mayhem, it seems.

Iona really doesn’t offer any words of wisdom, which makes her a pretty poor substitute mother. But Andie bucks up on her own and asks to borrow that cute 1960s prom dress: she’s going to go to the prom on her own, goddamnit! She’s not letting those rich scoundrels keep her down! I have no idea why she doesn’t just call Duckie at this stage.

Brace yourself, kids – this is the unbelievably hideous and unflattering frock that Andie makes for the prom:

If I was Iona I would be absolutely furious at the fate of my cute 1960s prom dress! Of course – in classic 1980s teen film tradition – everybody asks as if Andie’s dress is the last word in chic and looks much better than the dresses that the other girls are wearing.

The film ends predictably: Andie sees Duckie just as she’s mustering up the courage to go in to the prom and – of course – all is forgiven. Duckie’s wearing reasonably normal clothes, but reminds us of his ‘duckman’ status by drawing Andie’s attention to his filthy and inappropriate footwear.

Meanwhile, the rich kids are having a typically world-weary time: Blaine’s rocked up alone and is drinking some cola-like beverage and Steff is bored rigid and is trying to tempt his slutty rich girlfriend out of the room for a bit of slap and tickle. But then Andie walks in and jaws drop (in a good way, despite the dress). And Andie and Blaine have A Moment, where he tells her that he never stopped believing in her; he just didn’t believe in himself. And that he loves her and always will.

So Andie doesn’t know what to do, but Duckie urges her to go after Blaine and they have a big snog in the parking lot. And they live happily ever after, supposedly – although I don’t buy the idea that Blaine has grown a pair and will be prepared to defend is relationship with Andie in the face of disapproval from his rich parents and friends. I give the whole thing six months, unless Andie gets knocked up and he makes an honest woman of her.

Things end well for Duckie – some rich-looking chick eyes him up on the dance floor and beckons him over, making a travesty of the idea that these poor kids are all honourable and above peer pressure: the moment a ‘richie’ shows them any attention, they cave. So that’s the message to take away, party people: be yourself and be unique, until somebody richer or more normal than you pays you attention. When they do, abandon your personal style and blend in. Awesome! And if your best friend falls in love with you, just ignore it and it will sort itself out.

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6 thoughts on “Pretty in Pink

  1. Hmm, probably embarrassing to admit, but I own this movie. All the Molly Ringwald/ John Hughes movies were must watch when I was a kid, but this one was my personal favorite. Well, tied with Sixteen Candles. Even with Andrew McCarthy being such a drip. This movie also reminds me of how James Spader started out being “the sexy one,” and now has turned into the hilarious but kind of pudgy guy on Boston Legal. You forgot to mention one thing, and possibly the best thing about the movie– the “If you Leave, Don’t look Back,” song by OMD. That song just takes you right back to 1986 every time you hear it. Being in middle school was so fun.

    1. Are you kidding me? Not embarrassing at all – I would happily own it! And you’re right: that song is fantastic.

      I really need to watch Sixteen Candles now. I’m totally with you on the Molly Ringwald love.

  2. Maybe you should do a theme week, Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club too. Might be more than Tristan can take but you’ll enjoy it.

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