I’m fifteen. I see National Lampoon’s Vacation. Chevy Chase IS my dad, insisting on driving the family truckster when flying is so much easier, taking along loud-snoring elderly relatives, encouraging me to get my head out of my book and pay attention to sights like the biggest ball of twine.
I’m sixteen. I see Sixteen Candles. Not only is it hilarious, I identify with the main character. Short red hair, funny looking, not noticed by guys? Yeah. Then she ends up with Jake Ryan? It’s the most romantic movie ever, and gives me hope.
I’m almost seventeen, and grounded for something. Staying out past curfew? Wrecking the car? Getting caught drinking? So many possible infractions. My younger sister A. and her friend LT want to go see The Breakfast Club. My parents decide to go too and ask me (probably graciously, in spite of how obnoxious I was at the time, i.e. a 16yo) if I’d like to go. I’m torn. We live in a small, small town. I want to see the movie. I’m furious at being grounded. I risk humiliation if I’m seen at theater with parents and kid sister. I go. I’m enthralled. The movie seems to be speaking just to me. I see my classmates up on screen (CD is Judd Nelson. ML is Anthony Michael Hall. CS is Emilio Estevez. TR is Molly Ringwald. KS is a burnout like Ally Sheedy and will be dead in a few years of a heroin overdose.) I see myself as a mix of the Molly Ringwald character (I cut school to go tanning, not shopping, though) and the Anthony Michael Hall character (I was a “brain,” you see.) On the ride home, I’m silent. I can’t believe how awesome that movie was.
I’m eighteen when I see Pretty in Pink. I wince when Andie is taunted by James Spader. I know a guy like that. I have no prom date. I like the ending; I WANT her to end up with Blaine. The dress was prettier before she messed with it, though. The lights go up. Two rows in front of me is the guy I have a crush on. He says hi. Two weeks later he asks my best friend to prom. She says no. A really nice guy JG and his friend SK ask me and her. We say no, we have plans to go with a group. I will always regret this.
I’m eighteen, and with my friend who’s a boy, C in his car at a drive-in double feature of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Pretty in Pink (again). We drink wine coolers the color of Andie’s prom dress and smoke Marlboro Lights. Before the movie we listen to cassette tapes of OMD and Psychedelic Furs. We say we can’t wait for college and to get out of our small town. We think we’ll always be friends. This turns out not to be true.
John Hughes wrote and directed some of my favorite movies. Because of how it got imprinted on me, Breakfast Club will always be a touchstone. His work spoke to me at a time when I could hardly listen to anything. It helped me get through my teens (which wasn’t a sure thing; see paragraph 3). I’m grateful I had those movies, and I’m sad he’s gone.