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Blu-ray Review: Pretty in Pink

September 15, 2020

By John Corrado

John Hughes wrote but didn’t direct Pretty in Pink, the 1986 high school romantic comedy starring his frequent muse Molly Ringwald, which is a fact that often seems overlooked.

The directing duties on the film, which Paramount is releasing for the first time on Blu-ray, instead went to Howard Deutch, a former music video director and trailer editor who got on Hughes’s radar after cutting the trailer for the filmmaker’s breakout hit Sixteen Candles.

But despite the fact that Hughes didn’t sit in the director’s chair on Pretty in Pink, (though he still served as one of the film’s executive producers), his screenplay is a big part of why it is still remembered so fondly. And the film is viewed so thoroughly as part of his oeuvre, that the fact he didn’t actually direct it seems more like an interesting bit of trivia at this point.

The film follows Andie (Ringwald), a poor girl who makes her own clothes, refashioning items that she finds in thrift shops. She works in a record store under the tutelage of the eccentric Iona (Annie Potts), who serves as a sort of surrogate mother figure, absent one at home. When a cute rich guy named Blane (Andrew McCarthy), who goes to her school, comes into the shop and shows interest in her, Andie is smitten. This causes her best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) to grow jealous, as Blane’s snobbish rich friend Steff (James Spader) makes him feel embarrassed for dating a girl from the other side of town.

It’s interesting to watch Pretty in Pink again, and one of the biggest things that jumped out at me this time was that, while the film sets itself up as a love triangle, it also doesn’t really work as one. Despite Duckie’s supposed unrequited love for Andie, she never seems interested in him as more than a friend. A modern and arguably more interesting version of the story would surely have Duckie discovering that he is gay, and due to the flamboyancy of Cryer’s performance and costume choices, this seems like a pretty valid reading of the character.

It’s common knowledge at this point that, in the original version of the film, Andie actually did end up with Duckie, an outcome that for these reasons alone wouldn’t have really worked. The final scenes of the film had to be reshot following the disastrous response that the original ending got at an early test screening, forcing Hughes and Deutch to retool the film and do last minute reshoots so that Andie and Blane could end up together.

It’s interesting to note that Anthony Michael Hall, Hughes’s other frequent collaborator who co-starred with Ringwald in Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, was initially offered the role of Duckie but turned it down. I think he would have had a very different take on the character, and one that may have actually sold the relationship angle between Duckie and Andie. With that said, Cryer’s performance has become iconic, including the scene where he dances and lip syncs to Otis Redding, and he does bring a very specific energy to the role.

The screenplay showcases Hughes’s perceptive ear for dialogue and the way teens speak, and themes that emerge throughout several of his other works are present here. Much of the film’s heart comes from the relationship between Andie and her working class father (Harry Dean Stanton), and Pretty in Pink is at its strongest when exploring classism and the shame that Andie feels for living in poverty. Ringwald delivers a likeable performance in the film, turning Andie into a sympathetic and relatable protagonist.

I will admit that I have never held Pretty in Pink in quite as high regard as the classic trio of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, which collectively represent the apex of not only Hughes’s career but also teen films in general. But this is still undoubtedly a classic of both the high school and romantic comedy genres, and one that is enjoyable to revisit. The soundtrack is also top notch, with Hughes assembling an excellent selection of songs from British new wave bands including Echo & the Bunnymen, The Smiths, New Order, and The Psychedelic Furs, who provide the title track.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The film has been newly remastered from a 4K transfer, which was supervised by Deutch and looks great. The disc additionally includes two featurette, one old and one new.

Filmmaker Focus: Pretty in Pink (7 minutes, 38 seconds): Deutch reflects upon making the film, including his close working relationship with John Hughes, his favourite moments to shoot, and having to reshoot the ending.

The Lost Dance: The Original Ending (12 minutes, 15 seconds): This previously released bonus features finds the cast and crew reflect upon the original ending, including the reasons why it didn’t work and the logistics of bringing everybody back for the reshoot. They only had a day to reshoot it, and that’s what we see in the final film.

Original Theatrical Trailer (1 minute, 27 seconds): The original trailer for the film, which is built around Cryer’s iconic dance scene and sort of makes him seem like the lead character in the movie.

Isolated Score Track: Accessible under the “settings” tab, this feature allows us to watch the film with music only for the first time ever.

Pretty in Pink is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 96 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: September 15th, 2020

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