Revisiting a John Hughes Classic in the Age of Netflix Teen Movies

With the recent success of coming-of-age Netflix Original movies like To All the Boys I Loved Before and The Kissing Booth, revisiting the work of the father of the genre seems a worthwhile investigation.

Pretty in Pink (1986) is one of several of writer-direc tor John Hughes’ teen movies lauded for a moving and honest depiction of small-town teenage life. Starring Hughes’ muse, Molly Ringwald, the movie follows the star-crossed love between a rich, popular boy and a poor, outcast girl. While their romance offers a noble effort to prove that socio-economic status and high school cliques are no match for love, it fails to convince us of the couple’s love in the first place. 

Ringwald gives an emotionally powerful performance as Andie Walsh, a fashion-forward teen left to care for her broken-hearted father (Harry Dean Stanton) after her mother walks out. Ringwald shines in the scenes where she bears the weight of these conflicts, particularly when she confronts her father about his inability to move on. Andrew McCarthy gives a commendable performance as the charming rich boy, Blane McDonough, looking for something more meaningful.

And yet Hughes’ writing and directing renders their relationship about as dimensional as the fabric scraps that Andie transforms into her iconic, pink prom dress.

The two characters are apparently smitten after a few glances, then barely interact (aside from one lousy date), let alone talk about anything of substance. Yet, viewers are supposed to believe they are in love and that their love will conquer social differences. Throughout the film, we see individual character development as well as relationship development between Andie and her friends Duckie (Jon Cryer) and Iona (Annie Potts), but Andie and Blane’s relationship remains flat.

The film’s culmination at prom leaves the viewer wondering what actually happened during the 96 minute run time. Blane whispers, “I love you… always,” and it’s everything a young girl wants to hear but feels as meaningful as a passing goodbye.

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