PIP and SKOW – Seeing Teen Movies Too Late

Although I was a teen in the 80s, it doesn’t mean I saw every teen movie released then. Especially teen romantic comedies. Although I adore the quartet of John Hughes initial directorial efforts (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), I never saw the two teen movies he wrote and produced (but let Howard Deutch direct) around the same time: Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful.

Having recently watched both films for the first time as an adult, I sadly found both films lacking sympathetic characters or reasonable conclusions. Most of all, I saw how much they are exactly the same film.

Pretty in Pink (PIP) has the benefit of the better cast and being the better film. Beyond the 3 leads (Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, Jon Cryer) is the top notch cast of Harry Dean Stanton, Annie Potts, and James Spader as well as cameos from Gina Gershon, Kristy Swanson, and Andrew “Dice” Clay. Some Kind of Wonderful (SKOW) has the lighter weight trio (Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson) and a less interesting supporting and cameo cast of Elias Koteas, John Ashton, Candace Cameron, and Chynna Philips. Otherwise the differences are minimal.

Both films are about a poor, nice, innocent senior in High School who falls in love with someone way out of their league. Their lifelong best friend has a serious crush on the protaganist that is unrequited. Forced to overcome obstacles from the other kids at school and dealing with a reluctant, but eventually supportive father, the leads ultimately find “true love” – if we define that as a kiss with someone they like a lot, but know little about and ultimately will never settle down with. You know, teenage true love.

The main characters are underwritten and I found little reason to wholeheartedly support them or their goals. The rich vs. poor motif that Hughes creates so strongly in The Breakfast Club never gels in either of these films and feel too much like a repeat of The Outsiders (another film I didn’t see until I was an adult and it suffers from it – see my review here). The supporting characters are cartoonishly drawn and the villains are particularly over-the-top (especially in SKOW).

Jon Cryer’s Duckie in PIP is an iconic character who essentially appears to be a friendless stalker (and has generally been declared as gay and in the closet by Ringwald and Potts, but not by Cryer). Lea Thompson’s Amanda Jones in SKOW felt like a High School senior version of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s freshman Stacy Hamilton from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

While many scenes and moments ring true for teenagers then (and now too), nether ending felt earned except in the most superficial “I love him” that wasn’t worthy of the writer. The biggest plot differences between the two films:

  • The lead changes from female to male
  • The love interest changes from rich and slightly popular to poor and popular. The love interest also changes from virginal to sexpot.
  • The best friend, aside from a gender swap, goes from eccentric to Pat Benatar.
  • And, famously, the ending switches.

As has been widely reported, the original ending of PIP had Andie and Duckie dancing together at the prom. Supposedly Ringwald was sick when they shot. And Hughes didn’t like the scene as shot. And audiences booed when they showed it. So they brought the cast back together and shot a new ending where Andie eagerly forgives Blaine and they kiss . Fade to black. (Trivia: Blaine on Glee is named after Blain in PIP).

Hughes was unhappy with this new ending, so he wrote SKOW (the almost identical movie) and wanted Ringwald, his muse, to star in it. She refused and they never worked together again. Here Keith and Amanda suddenly realize that they aren’t right for each other and Keith chases down Watts and kisses her. Fade to black. (Trivia: Lea Thompson married her director Howard Deutsch shortly after this film was made. She was 26 when the film was made. They are still married.)

While I may not emotionally connect with either film, I imagine if I was 16 or 17 when I saw them, I might have a somewhat different reaction. Certainly, teen films aren’t made with such respect for the teens independence anymore. They are treated by the film as intelligent individuals holding down significant part-time jobs and having extraordinary freedom. Rich kids in both basically can do anything they want and at any time. There are alcohol heavy teen parties shown. Kids smoke a lot (in PIP). And best of all, SKOW reminds us that if you embarrass your antagonist in public, simply look at them and say “You’re over” and they will never bother you again.

The lessons learned are John Hughes understood teens, but was better when directed them. And moves change dramatically if you see them as a teenager or later in life. So make sure every teen in your life has seen The Breakfast Cub before they turn 17.

What films did you see as an adult that you would have responded to different as a teenager?

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