Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Yes, I bought "Pretty in Pink"

Once upon a time, I had principles. I hated Wal-Mart. I wrote long rants against the retail chain for my college newspaper where I listed all the predictable sins: the steep, hidden costs of cheap goods on exploited Third World sweatshop workers; the mistreatment of Wal-Mart employees, who are paid so little they have to take jobs at three Wal-Marts just to make ends meet; the screaming kids with Kool-Aid mustaches and Cheeto-stained fingers who always get slapped around by their overweight mothers in the parking lot. This was an evil institution destroying the soul of our country. Only Americans were too dumb to see it. Instead of realizing that discount underwear was not worth the pain and suffering Wal-Mart was unleashing on the world, we let ourselves be seduced by cheap jars of mayonnaise so large that one could feed the entire local school district for three years.

Then, I graduated from college and the sellout commenced. Pretty soon I was buying discount underwear at Wal-Mart. At first I felt guilty. I made jokes about how I set a world record for flip-flopping. In certain company, I would continue with my Wal-Mart rants, because ranting against Wal-Mart is a fashionable thing to do. But deep down I knew I was a phony. I had become a Wal-Mart shopper, and unlike those kids with the Kool-Aid mustaches I had no excuse for my actions. They could blame their overweight mothers. I knew fully well the repercussions of what I was doing, and I choose to look the other way at the display of Garth Brooks CDs.

My favorite thing about Wal-Mart is the discount DVDs. Like everything else, you can get a lot of DVDs at Wal-Mart for the price of a small African child’s education and health care for one month. I always end up going to Wal-Mart at 1 a.m. to look at DVDs. It’s like going to a porn shop. You want to go late enough so nobody drives by and sees you go in. The other night I went and they had an entire bin of movies for $4.88. That’s half the price of a movie ticket at a theater. And they had good movies. I picked up four of them: “U2: Rattle and Hum,” a decent concert movie featuring my favorite band from childhood dressed in vests and leather pants and pretending to be B.B. King's best friends; “A Simple Plan,” a stomach-churning film noir directed by Sam Raimi and highlighted by Billy Bob Thornton’s second most memorable performance as a dullard; “Escape from L.A.,” the sequel to “Escape from New York”; and (cough) “Pretty in Pink.”

The last one opens me up to some mockery, I suppose, though it’s the movie I’m probably most excited about picking up. “Pretty in Pink” is the last film of John Hughes’ trilogy of mid-80s teen films starring Molly Ringwald that also includes “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club.” It is probably the least regarded of the three but it is my second favorite (after “The Breakfast Club,” of course). The makers of “Pretty in Pink” didn’t help me by putting the thing in a pink box. I already felt slightly girly picking it up, but they could have at least put the movie in a brown bag or something.

“Pretty in Pink” is supposedly about how Ringwald (in an interesting turn from her rich girl character in “The Breakfast Club”) is this cute high school redhead from the wrong side of the tracks who falls in love with a BMW-driving “richie” named Blaine, played by Andrew McCarthy. But everybody knows that “Pretty in Pink” really is about Duckie, the dorky friend who is hopelessly in love with Ringwald. Duckie, played by future Charlie Sheen straight man Jon Cryer, is perfectly all wrong: his retro hair, his stupid vests (a recurring theme with my recent DVD purchases), his awkward Otis Redding posturing, his lame jokes that show he’s trying too hard to make an impression. He is exactly the hopeless adolescent romantic so many of us (cough, cough) can identify with.

“Pretty in Pink” sets you up for a glorious ending where Molly Ringwald realizes that Blaine, who is boring and not all that handsome, really, and a big wimp when it comes to standing up to the wonderfully creepy James Spader, isn’t for her and runs into the arms of the suddenly dashing Duckie. Hughes actually sells this ending for a few minutes, having Duckie walk Ringwald into the prom while OMD’s “If You Leave” pounds on the soundtrack. Then he pulls the rug out from under you. Blaine walks up and does his dull Blaine thing, and Ringwald swoons. She ditches Duckie and engages in some ’80s style makeout action with the back lighting and zoom-in close up. All that’s missing are those “Top Gun” love scene sheets blowing around.

Hughes throws us Duckie lovers a bone by hastily hooking him up with a cute blonde, but the resolution doesn’t wash. We all know Duckie will end up alone. This should be an infuriating turn for a film that is essentially an updated Cinderalla fantasy. But no real-life Duckie would be able to accept their roman a clef getting the girl. It would only make our own lives seem that much more pathetic.

There was nobility in always being the overlooked friend in high school, even for a guy named Duckie.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jen said...

You have just confirmed that my decision not to watch this movie was a wise one.

12:52 PM  
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