I'm not of the generation that grew up with Hughes's films -- I'm closer to his age than his audience's. And "Home Alone," one of his non-teen films (and a really sadistic piece at that), was something I took my older son to. But I appreciated what he tried to do as much as I was skeptical about his manipulations and the dubious convenience of the plotting and his characters' articulation.
But he hit a chord, again and again. I was watching the new NBC sitcom "Community" again this morning, and there was a Hughes reference -- right down to a character spouting dialogue borrowed from "The Breakfast Club." I also admired parts of his films -- Duckie's "Try a Little Tenderness" dance (seen above), for one, or John Candy's marvelous performance in "Planes, Trains & Automobiles." Or maybe even "Twist & Shout" in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."
After the jump is a short piece about Hughes, which covers some of the same ground as this but in different form, which I wrote for tomorrow's Beacon Journal.
And my friend Alan Sepinwall, closer to the Hughes demo than I am, pointed out this interesting Hughes discussion from Throwing Things.
Here it is:
I am not convinced that writer-director John Hughes ever made a film of thorough greatness. But he made movies with great scenes, and with moments that connected with his predominantly young audiences even if the connection came through manipulation and misleadingly happy endings.
Still, there's Duckie (Jon Cryer) dancing to "Try A Little Tenderness" in "Pretty in Pink." (That was the first thing I went back to look at when news came that Hughes had died.) And the conclusion to "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," with Steve Martin and John Candy at peace at last.
There are the movies tapping into the loneliness and social brutality of adolescence in movies like "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," "Pretty in Pink" and "Some Kind of Wonderful." The rebels in his movies were essentially benign -- and, in the case of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" -- hugely successful. But they were neither heroes nor villains.
Hughes's villains were more often the people looking down from high atop the adolescent social order, his heroes mostly the lost-in-the-middle teens who had never given themselves up to either conformity or criminality. He was good, too, at lost adults (John Candy in "Planes, Trains & Automobiles" again comes to mind). But it was with young people that Hughes -- himself part of an older generation -- became iconic, generating films which are still package in DVD series like "I Love the '80s" and "High School Flashback Collection."
Indeed, the new series "Community," coming to NBC in the fall, includes a scene where a gathering of unlike people is compared to "The Breakfast Club."
That said, there was often something about Hughes which could feel deeply fake. The confessional urges in "The Breakfast Club" come to mind.
And "Pretty in Pink" is notorious for reports that the original ending -- where Andie (Hughes' muse Molly Ringwald) ended up with Duckie -- was changed to put her with the handsome, socially successful Blane (Andrew McCarthy).
Duckie was a better match, unless you're a kid who wants to believe that the outsider can get the insider without compromise, that love will overcome a hidebound social structure. Then, getting Blane made perfect romantic sense. And Hughes made amends to some degree in "Some Kind of Wonderful," where the guy in a triangle picks the outsider girl over his social dream.
Although, when the outsider is Mary Stuart Masterson and the insider Lea Thompson, there should be no contest.