The first of our new Family Canon series.
“I just want to let them know that they didn’t break me,” says Molly Ringwald in one of the final scenes of the seminal 1986 film Pretty in Pink, standing in her living room in her homemade pink dress, preparing to go to prom, *gasp*, solo. The moment is undeniably a classic scene, quoted time and time again over the past few decades, and its quiet power still startles me years after my first viewing.
If you scroll down far enough on my mother’s Facebook page (which I tend not to do too regularly, for my own sanity), you’ll see a post from 2015 that details our completion of the “hattrick” of ‘80s movies — The Breakfast Club, St Elmo’s Fire, and Pretty in Pink. Spending the ‘80s as teenagers running around Glasgow, my parents (who met in ‘85) retained a lot of their old favourites well into their adult life, and passed them down to me and my brothers: namely, their Bruce Springsteen obsession and their affinity for “Brat Pack” films. For those unfamiliar with the term, the “Brat Pack” were a group of young Hollywood actors who frequently worked together on coming-of-age movies in the mid-to-late-1980s; think any movie that starred Molly Ringwald or had John Hughes involved in some way. By the time I’d reached my pre-teen years I was well-versed in my Springsteen, so I guess it was only natural to introduce me to some of the most important classics of American film history.
While Pretty in Pink may not have been the only Hughes-esque film my parents and I bonded over in my early teen years, it’s definitely the one I have the fondest memories of today; it’s possibly the only popular Brat Pack film that I’d be able to watch nowadays without cringing. While its peers often carry sexist and/or racist undertones, making them near unbearable to watch in 2020, Pretty in Pink is a rather mellow high school “star-crossed lovers” deal with a killer soundtrack. Girl-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks falls for the rich guy, none of their friends approve, they break up, they get back together, the end. My family have watched it together countless times — we can pretty much quote it back to front — and yet, we still love it. It’s the kind of movie that is a mainstay in our family’s discourse. As my high school prom was approaching earlier this year and I still hadn’t picked a dress, my dad joked about “pulling a Molly Ringwald” and making our own. The soundtrack — featuring The Psychedelic Furs, Otis Redding, and Echo & the Bunnymen — inevitably crops up in our playlists on car journeys.
Our frequent John Hughes rewatches definitely come from a place of nostalgia; it was maybe one of the first “adult” things we got to watch as a family after years of Nickelodeon movies and Disney cartoons. There’s also some sense of my parents reliving their teenage years — though our West of Scotland town is miles away, physically and metaphorically, from Molly Ringwald’s Chicago suburb, there’s still the central idea of being young and in love in such a tumultuous time. And, importantly for me, it’s still a film I can go back to today and take something new away each time: the awkward early interactions of Andie and Blaine (the love interests) are painfully reminiscent of my own early forays into the dating world, which still would’ve been two or three years away when I first saw Pretty in Pink. There’s something special about having these kinds of comfort movies; ones that remind you of a certain time in your life; that you’ve seen countless times and never tire of. They may not always be technical masterpieces or even especially decent films in any way, but it’s the memories and the feelings attached to them that make them special. And, even if 18-year-old me realises that I should have spent much less of my early adolescence romanticising the “nice guy” trope after falling in love with Jon Cryer’s Duckie, there’s still no better feeling than sitting down with my family and watching Molly Ringwald show up at prom in her homemade pink dress for the hundredth time.