A Look Back: Pretty in Pink

When I first saw “Pretty In Pink,” as a teen, I’m afraid the uppermost thought in my mind while watching the first 20 minutes was not, “Wow, what a spunky nonconformist heroine,” but “if Molly’s character, Andie Walsh, is supposed to be so poor, why does she have her own bedroom phone and car?”  I also did not (I suspected) have quite the reaction to Molly’s self-designed prom outfit and ultimate choice of guys.  At first, I thought she should have gone with Jon Cryer’s Duckie, but on second thought, I didn’t think any of the three was good enough for her.  However, I was probably in the minority there.

The movie opens with Molly getting ready for school and then showing off her outfit to her rather disheveled, seedy looking, but still loving single father (Harry Dean Stanton).  She designs and sews all of her outfits, which makes her the target of mockery with her upper crust peers but will probably one day win her a scholarship to an art institute.  She reminds Dad it’s time he should start thinking about getting a job, and then it’s off, across the railroad tracks (figuratively, though the tracks are literal in “Some Kind of Wonderful”) to her school.

She then arrives, and we meet her best friend, Duckie, who has a crush on her that even I, at a young age, thought was awfully disturbing.  But Molly goes with it, so I did, too.  We also get introduced to James Spader’s Stef, who is clearly supposed to be the bad guy because in eighties movie tradition he is blond, heavily moussed and rich, but also for some bizarre reason, interested in Molly, who turns his invitation down flat.  Fortunately, Molly’s choices are not limited to her stalker-in-training best friend and Evil Rich Guy because when she’s studying, she gets a computer message from Andrew McCarthy, who is also rich, but actually, gasp, kind of nice.  So she agrees to go on a date with him, but makes him pick her up at the record store where she works because she is too ashamed to let him see where she lives.

There is tension, of course, when they are each introduced to their date’s social circle, but the two manage to keep seeing each other, even as shock waves ripple through the entire high school because no one can conceive of a Poor Girl going out with a Rich Guy.  There’s also a subplot about Molly’s dad not having a job and not being able to accept that his wife has left for good, but fortunately, Molly possess a preternatural wisdom and does set him straight, as she does the school principal in another scene.  She’s even so principled that she tells off Andrew for being so wishy-washy when it comes to asking her to the prom (he’s starting to cave in from familial pressure, though we never meet his evil parents).  She decides to go the prom alone, “just to show them they didn’t break me.”

Molly’s best girl friend gives her an old dress, and her dad brings home one, too.  She rips up both to make a single one, and the end result is hardly flattering, but everyone from her dad to Jon, who shows up at the prom to give her moral support, loves it.  Unsurprisingly, Andrew is there, and he finally develops the cojones to tell off James and follow his heart.  Even Jon gets a girl to dance with.  At least, Molly wound up with someone whose budding computer skills will probably help him find a good job in the nineties.  Although she really should have held out until after graduation where she could find a much bigger selection of guys in college.

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