one score and sixteen
Last night I finally got round to watching Sixteen Candles, one of the earliest of the John Hughes teen films, of which The Breakfast Club is better known. It’s also the film that made Molly Ringwald a star, with a marvellously naturalistic performance as Samantha. But Sixteen Candles is a comedy first of all, in which Samantha’s 16th birthday is totally overlooked by her parents, who are fretting over her sister’s wedding the day after. There’s also a school dance, a party, with other fairly familiar elements given a surreal twist. A pivotal conversation – in a half-assembled car in the school workshop – leads to The Geek (Anthony Michael Hall) borrowing Samantha’s knickers to show off, in exchange for an introduction to a handsome guy, Jake, who conveniently happens to be going through a relationship crisis with his older girlfriend, and is looking for something deeper.
The Geek : You know, I’m getting input here that I’m reading as relatively hostile.
Samantha : Go to hell!
The Geek : VERY hostile.
Much of the fun comes from the period detail, but the party… what you would call a house-wrecker, in which walls are punctured, trees are T.P’d, the slightest action is accompanied by the clatter of beer cans. Not as deep as The Breakfast Club, but still worthwhile. I may get to see Pretty In Pink later this week – must be a DVD release season, or something.
Why do I enjoy these John Hughes films so much? He seemed to me to be good at depicting teenage issues in a way relevant to grown-ups. You can’t just dismiss them as “teenage angst” despite what some critics say, and The Breakfast Club in particular would be good viewing for parents with troubled teenagers, I think. He managed to shed light on teenage behaviour while simultaneously mocking it, and exposing its origins in what I can only call a shortage of worldly wisdom. That unworldliness is not necessarily a bad thing: I also feel the nostalgia for a time when I didn’t know as much about the world as I do, when the questions were simpler (but the answers were not).