Thursday, March 3, 2016

Pretty in Pink Revisited

It's hard to believe it's been three decades since screenwriter John Hughes' tale of teen love first graced the silver screen. Incredibly, until recently, it had been that long since I watched Pretty in Pink from start to finish. The final installment in the unofficial John Hughes-Molly Ringwald teen trilogy--which includes Sixteen Candles (1984) and The Breakfast Club (1985)--builds on the dramatic elements in the latter film. That makes Pretty in Pink somewhat serious for a Hughes picture, although there are still enough kooky characters to give it some much-needed humor.

Ringwald stars as Andie Walsh, a high school social outcast with her own pink-heavy sense of fashion. Her father (Harry Dean Stanton) can't hold a job and still pines for Andie's mother, who walked out on the family three years earlier. Still, he obviously cares deeply for his daughter, even though she plays the role of parent more than him. Andie's best friend is the outrageous Duckie (Jon Cryer), who harbors a very obvious secret: he's in love with Andie--and not in a brotherly way.

Andrew McCarthy also co-starred with
Molly Ringwald in Fresh Horses (1988).
Our heroine's life turns upside down when she catches the eye of a good-looking, popular, and wealthy classmate named Blane (Andrew McCarthy). Their instant mutual attraction ignores the fact that they're different in almost every way. But really, who can explain love? En route to a potential happy ending, Andie and Blane must cope with hateful people, jealous friends, and their own self-doubts. Heck, that's what teen angst is all about.

Pretty in Pink was the first of the "trilogy" to be directed by someone other than John Hughes (Howard Deutch made his directorial debut). Still, Hughes' fingerprints are all over the film. Despite a couple of awkward scenes (e.g., Ringwald yelling at McCarthy), the dialogue sounds mostly natural. Screenwriter Hughes is at his best when capturing the back-and-forth exchanges between two people--whether it's Andie and her father, Andie and Duckie, or Andie and her friend/surrogate mother Iona (a very effective Annie Potts).

Jon Cryer as Duckie.
Jon Cryer has the most difficult part and often struggles with it. I'm sure I have now incurred the wrath of millions of Duckie fans, but I grew weary of the character's shtick as the movie progressed. Granted, Cryer has one of the most memorable scenes (lip-syncing to "Try a Little Tenderness") and he mines the requisite poignancy when Duckie feels betrayed by Andie.

(Spoiler alert! You may want to stop reading here if you've never seen Pretty in Pink).

Downey, Jr. might have been Duckie.
The casting of Cryer has generated much discussion among Pretty in Pink fans because of its impact on the film's closing scene. In the original cut, Andie chose Duckie over Blane at her high school prom. Test audiences overwhelmingly preferred that Andie end up with Blane, noting her sibling attitude toward Duckie. As a result, the studio recalled the cast and a new ending was shot with Andie picking Blane. Numerous other actors were considered for the role of Duckie, including Robert Downey, Jr. At a 2008 screening of Pretty in Pink, Cryer said: "Molly Ringwald felt that if Robert Downey, Jr., the guy that she liked, had been cast, she would have been okay with the original ending." (For the record, Ringwald and Downey, Jr. teamed up the next year for James Toback's The Pick-up Artist.)

I think Pretty in Pink is the least effective of the three Hughes-Ringwald collaborations. It lacks the sweetness of Sixteen Candles and the wit of The Breakfast Club. Still, one can't underestimate its influence on later teen pictures like She's All That (1999) and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999).

Stolz in Some Kind of Wonderful.
John Hughes essentially remade Pretty in Pink the following year as Some Kind of Wonderful, which I think is a better film. It stars Eric Stoltz as the working-class protagonist, Lea Thompson as the school's most popular girl, and Mary Stuart Masterson as Stoltz's tomboy friend (who secretly loves him). Hughes wanted Molly Ringwald to play the tomboy part, but she rejected it. She and Hughes never worked together again.


  1. How could you not love Jon Cryer as Duckie? I can't imagine Iron Man as Duckie. Jon Cryer was also great in "No Small Affair."

  2. I agree with Molly Ringwald that had RDj been cast as Duckie the original ending would've worked. Much prefer "Some Kind of Wonderful" to "Pretty in Pink." Loved those '80s teen films...those glorious brat pack movies.

  3. It's been some years since I've seen this – or any of the Brat Pack movies. I think I prefer Sixteen Candles, but maybe this one is worth another look.

    Whatever happened to Molly Ringwald? Is she still busy acting?

  4. I enjoyed this movie when I saw it in high school, and I agree that there wasn't chemistry between Andie and Duckie. A lot of people empathize with the position he's in, but he didn't feel like a match for her, and while Andie and Blane have more chemsitry, it feels like they're together for right now. He wasn't brave enough once and might not be again when it counts. I agree about Some Kind of Wonderful! Do you think they would have made Lea Thompson be a blonde if Ringwald had been cast, or would it have been battle of the redheads?

  5. Re: "Some Kind Of Wonderful," for me it's all about Mary Stuart Masterson. Couldn't take my eyes off her.

    1. I agree! It may be my fave of her film roles.

  6. One of my favourite films. I always thought she should have ended up with Duckie and I never knew that originally that is what happened. Duckie loved her so much, would never have hurt her and was so much fun.

    Your blog is great.