Alison Cornmell puts in her scrunchies and digs out those fingerless gloves for an evening spent in the company of the Brat Pack…
The 80s – the decade that style forgot; when hair was over processed and mobile phones were huge. It’s an easy era to make fun of and you could be forgiven for dismissing its cultural worth. But amongst the shoulder pads, mullets … and Rick Astley, were moments of brilliance. Robert Zemeckis was making Back to the Future, Michael Jackson released Thriller and John Hughes was writing and making films that defined a generation.
During Hughes’ career he made Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Uncle Buck; his run of winners continued into the early 90s with the Home Alone franchise – required viewing at Christmas.
His films are as much a part as many people’s childhood and adolescence as the friends we grew up with; and we know, if you take a look, you’ll find a couple of John Hughes films nestled away in the DVD collection. As part of their 80s strand, FACT showed a double bill of The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink, presenting the perfect opportunity to see two much loved films on the big screen.
The theme of many a Hughes film, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink each tell a story of suburban teenage life. In The Breakfast Club five very different high-school students are forced to spend a Saturday together in detention, but find themselves interacting with and understanding each other for the first time. Starring Ally Sheedy (the basket case), Emilio Estevez (the jock), Molly Ringwald (the princess), Judd Nelson (the criminal) and Anthony Michael Hall (the brain), they are an unlikely group who come together through a shared experience.
Pretty in Pink stars Molly Ringwald (again) as Andie, a high school senior living alone with her working-class father. With a penchant for making her own clothes, and not being as wealthy as the other pupils, she is made fun of at school. Andie’s best friend Duckie (Harry Dean Stanton) has a secret crush on her, but Andie (of course) finds herself falling for one of the school’s rich kids, Blane, played by Andrew McCarthy. But, as we all know, the path to true love doesn’t run smooth and they both have to battle their friends before they can be together.
Hughes’ films dealt with serious issues from parental tensions to sex, peer pressure to hurtful stereotypes, and the role that adults play in young people’s lives. With the films’ believable dialogue they felt like honest depictions of what teenage life was like. However, the beauty of his films lay in the ease with which he could switch from poignancy to humour. Hughes’ films are filled with wit from the cheeky looks to camera, to the smart one-liners. It’s also clear that the guy loved a montage – and who can blame him, watching Emilio Estevez get high and dance around a library like a maniac is cinematic gold, no?
Along with writing and directing, Hughes, who sadly died in 2009, had an eye for casting; each actor striking the perfect balance between selfish teenager and endearing character. Many of his stars – as with Molly Ringwald – appeared in multiple Hughes movies, leading to a belief in the media and beyond that these were the ultimate cool kids, hanging out off-set. This idea lead to the New York Times’ David Blum lumping a bunch of them together, including Andrew McCarthy, Ally Sheedy, Demi Moore and Rob Lowe under The Brat Pack banner, describing them as “what kids want to see and what kids want to be”.
Though the Brat Packers professed their distaste for the term, they, along with Hughes, captured the zeitgeist with effortless cool and came to define a generation in ways that so far the likes of Twighlight and Harry Potter, though coming close, have failed to do.
FACT’s 80s strand continues next week with an American Werewolf in London / The Thing double bill