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Surrender the Pink: Deutch’s Debut a Dated Vintage “Pretty in Pink” (1986) | Blu-ray Review

The films of John Hughes and the resulting compendium of actors who starred in them, lovingly remembered as the Brat Pack, define a particular era of pop culture, inextricably linked with the fashions and customs of 1980s white America.

A common formula comprised of misfits and outsiders was the Hughes charm, perhaps embodied best by muse Molly Ringwald. After the success of 1984’s Sixteen Candles, Hughes wrote 1986’s Pretty in Pink on a whim of the performer’s reverence for the title track by the Psychedelic Furs.

Directing duties were handed off to Howard Deutch, here making his debut (but later directing the Hughes penned Some Kind of Wonderful shortly after in 1987). Already recycling its own themes and personas, the second union of Ringwald and Hughes is perhaps nostalgia frosted for its celebrated soundtrack more than any kind of memorable statements, fashion or otherwise, it manages to make.

Andie (Ringwald) lives on the outskirts of Chicago with her down-and-out dad (Harry Dean Stanton), a shell of a man ever since his wife abandoned them years ago. Teased by the girls at school for her poor upbringing, Andie finds joy working in a New Wave record store and commiserating with her kooky boss (Annie Potts), who convinces her subordinate to attend her prom, even if it means going alone. It just so happens Andie finds herself in a whirlwind attraction with a boy from the other side of the tracks, the wealthy Blane (Andre McCarthy), a flirtation which goads her good friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) to finally express how he really feels about her. But the social spheres of Andie and Blane resist allowing them to intermingle, setting up a scenario of star-crossed lovers.

Revisiting the zeitgeist favorites of a any period can often be jarring for all the wrong reasons. Pretty in Pink was created for a certain kind of mainstream from a particular era and hasn’t aged well beyond its services as a time capsule. Blatantly heterogenous and heteronormative (which arrives with the typical ear markers of homophobia prized in the accepted nomenclature of the era), revisiting Hughes and company finds us transported to a blindingly white universe.

And if Andie’s socioeconomic shaming provides the only fodder for her public ridicule by the ‘richies,’ one can only imagine the extent of racism and homophobia lurking, had anyone dared to examine it further. These are the thoughts one could potentially ponder in re-watching Pretty in Pink, which sports such a bland narrative it seems the equivalent of unseasoned potatoes.

Yes, Ringwald is watchable and her sequences with Harry Dean Stanton do move towards the requisite poignancy we expect. The rest of the cast plays to their strengths, the usually loathsome viper embodied by James Spader, the kitschy but cool Annie Potts, a winsome if unenthralling Andrew McCarthy. The famously changed ending which switches up the winning paramour of Andie’s romance allows us to analyze the Jon Cryer character’s subtexts, an accidental but worthwhile reading of his character’s potential repressed sexuality.

Worthwhile are some brief moments of a nubile Andrew Dice Clay and Gina Gershon, but for a film of the period which cooperates fully with its addictive soundtrack, Dirty Dancing (1987) has aged better, and if class is all we’re daring to examine, Martha Coolidge’s original Valley Girl (1983) at least provides serrated edges.

Film Rating: ★★½/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Rating: ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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