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PRETTY IN PINK

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, June 19, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: Of all the John Hughes ’80s teen flicks, this one and ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ are tied for my favorites, and this one has an edge primarily for the warm relationship it develops between Molly Ringwald and Harry Dean Stanton, and for the many laughs provided by the hilarious but oft-underrated Annie Potts. This is a new Blu-ray release as part of ‘Paramount Presents,’ a line of upgraded home-video releases from Paramount Home Video. My review was published in the Deseret News on March 2, 1986.

Young Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) is from the wrong side of the tracks in a high school that is split into two factions — the rich kids and the poor kids.

But that doesn’t get her down. She’s self-confident, intelligent and a good kid, despite the absence of a mother. It seems Mom flew the coop some three years ago, and now Andie appears to be raising her dad (Harry Dean Stanton), who’s been in a state of depression ever since Mom left.

Andie makes her own clothes, a sort of zany layered look; she works in the local record shop, which is owned by Iona (Annie Potts), a child of the ’60s who can’t seem to get her act together; and Andie’s best friend is a nerdy class clown called “The Duck,” or “Duckie” (Jon Cryer), who’s in love with her but can’t tell her — so he shows off instead.

Then one day Andie falls for Blane (Andrew McCarthy), one of the school’s wealthier lads, and lo and behold he falls for her too. He even asks her to the prom but then finds himself getting loads of peer pressure to drop her. She just doesn’t fit in.

     

From left, Jon Cryer, Annie Potts, Molly Ringwald, 'Pretty in Pink' (1986)

So goes the plot of “Pretty in Pink,” not particularly original and a bit too entrenched in stereotypes as it starkly associates rich kids with spoiled, obnoxious yuppiedom and poor kids with spiked hair and leather. No shades of gray here, except for Ringwald and McCarthy.

But that doesn’t matter. “Pretty in Pink” has a lot more going for it. There are superb performances, especially by Ringwald; one wonderful truthful moment after another in a series of scenes with which both parents and teens will easily identify; and a low-key sense of humor and poignancy that transcends just about every other teenage movie of the past 15 years.

Molly Ringwald grows as an actress with every picture, and the scripts of writer-director-producer John Hughes also seem to be better with each one (except for last year’s foray into bad taste, “Weird Science”).

Hughes gave us “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club,” two teenage films that are miles away from the usual sexploitation shlock we associate with adolescent pictures today.

For some reason Hughes didn’t direct “Pretty in Pink,” (though he did co-produce it). But first-time director Howard Deutch, who comes from the world of music videos, shows a gentle, sensitive hand in dealing with youth issues, and “Pretty in Pink” is a fine film that adults and youngsters can enjoy equally.

     

Deutch has also extracted fine performances all around in addition to the aforementioned Ringwald, whose expressive face and subtle nuances dominate the film.

Harry Dean Stanton adds yet another wonderful portrait to his gallery of characters. Cryer, in what might be termed the “Michael Anthony Hall Role,” resembles Halls’ character in “Sixteen Candles,” and he does it very well, managing to give an edge to the character so that he’s more than just a sappy lovestruck showoff. And Andrew McCarthy is much more genuinely sympathetic here than he was in “St. Elmo’s Fire” or “Class.”

But the scene-stealer is Annie Potts, a versatile actress whose film roles have ranged from the “Ghostbusters’ ” deadpan secretary to a timid pregnant woman in the delightful but underrated “Heartaches” to the frigid wife in “Crimes of Passion.” In “Pretty in Pink” she changes hair and clothing styles with every scene, epitomizing the single ’80s career woman in search of an identity — and she’s hilarious.

“Pretty in Pink” works overall, however, by building its humor from within the characters without exploiting them, managing to make us care very much about nearly all of them. The exception is James Spader’s Steff, an ultra-snob who pressures McCarthy because he was once snubbed by Ringwald. Spader is too old to pass for a high school student and his character never rings true.

That’s a small complaint, however, for a film as winning as “Pretty in Pink,” which is rated PG-13 for language and a brief scene that includes a minor character smoking marijuana.