***** (Spectacular) 10

****1/2 (Excellent) 9

**** (Very Good) 8

***1/2 (Good) 7

*** (Above Average) 6

**1/2 (Average) 5

** (Below Average) 4

*1/2 (Mediocre) 3

* (Awful) 2

1/2 (Abysmal) 1

0 (Worthless) 0

Saturday, June 19, 2010

# 7: PRETTY IN PINK (1986)

(1986 - TEEN/ROMANCE/COMEDY) ***½ out of *****

(Whatever. The color may be nice, but that dress still belongs on my grandmother.)

Who let the annoying Duck in the picture?

CAST: Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, Jon Cryer, Annie Potts, James Spader, Harry Dean Stanton, Alexa Kenin, Kate Vernon, Emily Longstreth.

DIRECTOR: Howard Deutch

WARNING: SPOILERS and jaw-dropping hairstyles/fashion up ahead...

Oh, the 80’s.... When life was simple, and hair was big, and fashion was amusing, and music was danceable, and teens were more mature than the adults around them. Only during that era would a girl fret about whether she would date a guy with money. In this day and age, the question would not be “Should I?”, but rather, “I wonder if I can get him to make regular money transfers into my bank account?” or “Will he think I’m a gold-digging whore if I insist on an expensive present each time we go out?” Kids these days…

This is the dilemma that bedevils Andie Walsh (Molly “who set my hair on fire” Ringwald). Andie is your typical nice girl - a good friend, studious pupil, and doting daughter. In other words, she’s really needing someone to rock her world. It’s not enough that she has focused aspirations tied-in vaguely to her ability to take crap clothes and somehow make them quirky and interesting (but, also, sometimes crappier - more on that later), or that she has a loyal confidante in mid-thirties record-store owner Iona (Annie Potts), or that she has a terminally annoying stalker/admirer in Duckie Dale (Jon Cryer). She’s still missing something.

Andie figures out what it is when she notices “richie” Blaine McDonough (Andrew McCarthy) giving her googley eyes from across the hall in school and popping in unexpectedly at Iona‘s record store where Andie works. (By the way, another sign that we are smack-dab in the middle of the 80s is the use of the term “richie” to denote someone whose parents’ gross income is 100,000,000 times higher than yours). Andie realizes she wants some rich-boy lovin’, and that Blaine wants some poor-girl worship. Apparently, this is problematic because “richies” and “poories” [my invention] simply do not mingle. And Andie is definitely a poorie. Why else would she buy used clothes and attach little animal bells to them? I mean, aside from the possibility that she might be crazy (more on that later). Which, by the way, leads to “Richie” slut/bitches Benny and Kate (Kate Vernon and Emily Longstreth) dissing Andie’s attire in the middle of history class. “Where’d you get your clothes - a five and dime store?” sneer the priveleged whores, as if what they were wearing was any great shakes. At this point in the movie, I was expecting, nay - praying, that the Voice of God would chime in and beat down the tramps by stating that, “This is the 80’s, ladies. All clothes suck. Even those high-priced linen potato sacks you‘re wearing. At least Andie didn‘t have to spend $5,000 on her attire.”

But I digress. So… Andie is conflicted now: does she make a move and meet Blaine half-way? She asks good pal Jenna (Alexa Kenin, who sadly died right after this film finished shooting. Bless her soul) if there’s anything wrong with dating a guy with money. Jenna is clearly ahead of her time, because she gives Andie an “Are you fucking kidding me?” look. Armed with this sage response, Andie forges ahead and agrees to go on a date with Blaine. - much to the chagrin of those around them. Duckie, for one, goes spastic in a way that would make Daffy Duck look positively calm and composed. Obviously, Duckie’s crazy about Andie and is not so keen on the idea that someone named “Blaine” and who has more money than all of Duckie’s family and friends put together is macking on what he views is his property. He shows this displeasure by generally acting like a prick to Andie and Blaine, and by planting a big, wet, sloppy kiss on Iona right in front of them. Andie’s like, “Whatever…” and leaves with Blaine. Iona’s like, “Whoa….” and contemplates being an early prototype for the modern-day Cougar. Duckie’s like, “I can’t believe that bitch just left…”. And Blaine’s like, “What… the… hell… am I… getting into here?”

Another person not too keen on the Andie-Blaine body-fluids-exchange extravaganza is Steph (James Spader), Blaine’s asshole extraordinaire best friend. As played by Spader, Steph is a singularly slimy and delightfully hissable villain. Strutting around the halls of the school with his blond feathered shag-do coupled with Spader‘s androgynous features, Steph looks like a pre-op transsexual that just got turned down for sex-reassignment surgery - and is going to make everyone pay for it, goddamnit. He warns Blaine that if Andie remains in the picture, not only will Blaine’s parents shove a hot fire poker up his ass, but also Blaine will no longer have any friends. Personally, I think that’s a small concern compared to a hot fire poker up the ass. Okay, fine… Steph doesn’t actually use the phrase “shove a hot fire poker up your ass” but what else am I supposed to come up with when he warns Blaine that his parents are going to get “vicious” on him? What, I ask you? This is very problematic for Blaine because, you see, he has also basically already asked Andie to the prom.

At any rate, Blaine displays great maturity and courageous backbone against this terror campaign by promptly dropping Andie like a bar of soap last held by a leper. In other words, forget about the prom, sweetheart. Andie, in turn, displays commendable grace and dignity by screaming at Blaine like a crazed banshee right in the middle of the hallway, before running off with her hair on fire. Oh, wait… she‘s just a redhead. This whole confrontation brings tears to Blaine’s eyes, which I’m not sure if we’re supposed to interpret as either (1) He really loves Andie and is hurt by what he had to do, or (2) He’s a wuss and doesn’t like it one bit when people get in his face and tell him what a spineless fucker he is. I’m leaning towards (2).

Later on, Andie has a nice heartfelt chat with Iona, telling her that Blaine is no longer taking her to the prom. Earlier, when it looked like there was a snowball’s chance in hell of Andie actually going to the prom, Iona promised that she would give Andie her old prom dress. Now, Andie reminds Iona of this and asks if she can still have it. Iona hesitates, staring at Andie and clearly thinking, “I thought this bitch just said that she wasn’t going to the prom, anymore? What the hell does she want with the dress?” But being a good friend, Iona just says “Sure…” Or maybe she just doesn’t want Andie to go all “scorned-pyscho” on her like what happened to Blaine. Despite her sweet exterior, it’s becoming apparent that Andie Walsh is not someone you say “no” to. Recall my earlier comment about her being possibly crazy.

So… Iona reluctantly gives Andie the dress. Andie takes this pink frock and the other pink frock her Dad (Harry Dean Stanton) got her from some five-and-dime store (how prescient, Benny and Kate), and goes off into her room to participate in a montage sequence where it become quickly apparent that Andie is fusing the two dresses together like some low-fashion equivalent of the Frankenstein monster. Recall what I wrote earlier about Andie occassionally taking crap clothes and making them much crappier. This suspicion is confirmed when Andie proudly steps into the living room to show Dad what she has wrought. Now, there are performances that have gone ignored for Academy Award consideration - but no performance has been criminally overlooked as much as Harry Dean Stanton’s controlled reaction to the “thing” that his movie daughter is wearing. The best way to describe it? Envision what would happen if some cheap pink fabric had a one-night stand with a pop-tent, got pregnant, and the resulting baby was delivered by a drunk seamstress. Clearly, Dad is familiar with Andie’s penchant for going “Tactical Fission Device” on anyone who tells her what she doesn’t want to hear. So he just smiles and says, “Your guy is going to go through the floor.” Yeah, with laughter.

At the prom, Andie has a moment of doubt outside the ballroom. Probably the first glimmers of realization that her dress might just overtake the band for sheer entertainment value. Just when you think she might finally do something sensible and turn tail back home to Pops, she glances up and sees Duckie standing by the front doors, smiling at her - and wearing what looks like the bastard child of a tuxedo and a Hugh Hefner bathrobe. Feeling much better that she won’t be the only laughing-stock at the prom, Andie rushes forward and embraces Duckie, spinning as she does. Conveniently forgetting he is essentially a deranged stalker who can’t dress worth a shit. Then again, it might be something they have in common.

They go inside, where whatever little credibility remaining in PRETTY IN PINK is immediately flushed down the toilet when no one bursts out laughing at the sight of them. The only function that these two would possibly blend in at, dressed the way they are, is a circus. But whatever. They spot Blaine, looking quite morose and gaunt. He sees them, ambles over, apologizes to Andie, shakes Duckie’s hand, then leaves the prom. Somehow forgetting to ask them what the hell they are wearing. Instead of jumping on the dance floor and setting it on fire with their cheap shoes, Andie and Duckie glance at each other, now morose as well. “He came alone,” Duckie says. “He’s not like the others.” And he know this, how? Just because Blaine came alone? Did it ever occur to him that maybe no one wanted to go to the prom with Blaine after it became public knowledge that his “richie” tongue (and, possibly, his dick) had gone to forbidden “poorie” terrain?

No matter. Andie follows her deluded heart and chooses to believe that Blaine chose to come alone - instead of it being the logical result of being a pariah. As she rushes out to find Blaine, Duckie glances up to see an attractive blond leering at him. Clearly she is either drunk or retarded, but I guess we’ll find out for sure tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, Andie runs after Blaine in the parking lot, her pink tent flapping around her. Finally, she catches up to him - and right then and there, the Blaine-Andie body-fluid-exchange extravaganza resumes where it left off - right there in the parking lot, as OMD’s “If You Leave” blares on the soundtrack. I kept waiting for the pre-op transsexual Steph to materialize and knee-cap Andie while yelling, “Bitch, he’s my man!” But it never happened. Sigh.

BUT, SERIOUSLY: More deeper and serious than most teen comedies, PRETTY IN PINK makes you care about the characters and is filled with great performances. The Blaine-Andie romance is actually quite touching, and Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy definitely have chemistry. It’s very fortunate that they decided to change the original ending where Duckie gets the girl. Blaine was a more appealing character, and Jon Cryer’s portrayal of Duckie is just grating. I realize a lot of people love Duckie, but I just don’t see it. Besides, he had more of a platonic brother vibe with Andie, and they just don’t belong with each other. Reportedly, Robert Downey Jr. was initially supposed to play Duckie. Had he been cast, I think it would have been a stronger love triangle, because Blaine would have tougher competition. I can see Robert Downey Jr. making Duckie actually sexy, instead of creepy and annoying. But, oh well…