Top Ten Musical Moments from Pretty in Pink
he Breakfast Club? Nah, don’t give me the fucking Breakfast Club. I love that movie, of course—anybody who turned 13 in the year 1985 or any year after that is pretty much obligated by law to do so—but it’s a flighty movie, with a cast consisting of stereotypes, some all too convenient solutions (blame the parents, duh) and limited replay value. And “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”? Yeah, that song was pretty good, maybe even great, but could you name a single other song on the soundtrack? A single other band? Thought not.
Pretty in Pink. It’s not remembered as fondly because it’s not really a comedy—there are classic moments of course (nearly every one involving Jon Cryer—wait, who the hell is Jon Cryer? I mean, Duckie!) but it’s not that funny, really. Rather, Pretty in Pink is a tragedy—I don’t want to say of Shakespearean proportions, because that would be rather hyperbolic and technically extremely inaccurate—but I was more moved by the last scene of the movie the first time I saw it than I probably would be by an infinite loop of “Oh happy dagger, this is thy sheath”s. You think you’re the only one left feeling strangely unsatisfied by the end of Pretty in Pink? NO ONE likes that ending. If you found yourself rooting for Blaine (“Blaine? His name is BLAINE?? That’s not a name, IT’S A MAJOR APPLIANCE!!”) and Andie to make up at the end of the movie, you have no right watching that movie and get the hell out of my Top Ten. This one is for the people who still watch that movie every time it’s on cable, hoping, praying that this time it’ll end differently, knowing deep down that the movie is better for ending this way and crying your eyes out because of it. You are not alone.
But in addition to having a last scene more powerful in its ambiguity (“Wait. Is this supposed to be a happy ending or not?”) than any movie since Casablanca, Pretty in Pink also had a soundtrack the likes of which the world would not see again until Trainspotting in 1995. By soundtrack, I don’t mean the Music From and Inspired By CD you find in stores (I bought it once about a year ago, trying to recapture the magic of the movie—how foolish of me) but the actual use of music in the movie. There are plenty of unforgettable images in this movie—Andie and Blaine kissing in the headlights of his car (“he drives a BMW!”), Duckie tearing down the “Vote for Your Prom King & Prom Queen” banner after getting into a fight with the evil James Spader, and Andie’s immortal leap into Duckie’s arms at the prom. But it’s the songs that will be burned in your mind forever. Classic entries from some of the great indie bands of the time—likeEcho & The Bunnymen, New Order, The Smiths, The Psychedelic Furs, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (in one of the most popular movies of the 80s!)--provide the highlights, underscoring scenes for which the decade was invented. You’ll never be able to hear these songs separated from the movie again, and for that they will be a thousand times richer. Here are my ten favorite musical moments, in chronological order (ending up roughly in a worst to best order, coincidentally).
10. With a two-measure count off and a classic drum hit, the movie begins. Andie suits up for school and chews out brokenhearted and deadbeat dad Harry Dean Stanton for not getting up to find a job. They are poor, but loving and dignified. “Pretty in Pink” by The Psychedelic Furs plays in the background. Why the screenwriters didn’t name her Carolyn and not Andie is beyond me, this song seems written for her.
9. Annie Potts (Iona) rants to Andie on the perils of not going to the prom while fending off album and magazine browsers in their retail record store Trax—Andie smacks the magazine out of a kid’s hand with a pencil, Iona shoots a kid with a staple gun (“You missed my eye by an inch!” “Half an inch.”). The store’s stereo pipes in Danny Hutton’s “Wouldn’t it Be Good”.
8. Andie teaches the unreceptive Duckie about the Russian Revolution (“ it did not happen in Germany”) and for the only time in the movie, shows true friendship and compassion for the Duck, hoping that she “isn’t the only person how realized how wonderful [he] is.” She leaves to get a drink, and he collapses on the bed in love. Inspired, he picks up Andie’s hairbrush, and sings a very special rendition of John Lennon’s “Love” to her dog (and to Andie, who unbeknownst to Duckie, can hear through the vents).
7. Iona puts Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” on the record player at Trax. Duckie bursts in and begins to lip synch and dance to the soul classic, looking sharper than a thousand Joe Jacksons and more convincing than a thousand Milli Vanillis. Afterwards, an unimpressed and embittered Andie (having been seemingly stood up by Blaine) rolls her eyes and remarks to Iona (referring to Duckie) “ever have one of these?”
6. The morning after Blaine and Andie’s fateful date and glorious first kiss, Duckie—having sworn off riding past Andie’s house on his bike—rides past Andie’s house on his bike, bitter and in seclusion. Appropriately, New Order’s “Shellshock” provides the soundtrack.
5. Iona, prompted by Andie’s new romance, waxes nostalgic about her own prom days, raving about her butt and wondering “why can’t we start old and get younger?” They slow dance to the Association’s classic “Cherish”.
4. While Blaine and Andie have a roll in the hay (literally, but not figuratively), Duckie sits at home on his post-less bed in tinted sunglasses, throwing playing cards into his hat and listening to The Smiths’ “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”. For Duckie, god knows, it would be the first time.
3. Andie, so pissed off about being ignored by the cowardly Blaine on the advice of his evil friend James Spader (“the girl is, was, and will always be nada.”) that she waits outside one of his classes and confronts him with the rarely attempted but highly powerful Using The Word “Fuck” in a PG-13 Movie Because Your Prom Date is That Big of an Asshole tactic (attempted more recently but less memorably by Rachel Leigh Cook in She’s All That). But it’s New Order’s peerless “Elegia” that gives the scene infinite resonance.
2. Andie, having officially been dumped by Blaine, puts on a brave face and suits up for prom anyway, looking as pretty in pink as ever and becoming a source of courage and an example for wallflowers worldwide. “I just want to let them know they didn’t break me,” she inspiringly states. The last, and most effective New Order tune of all, “Thieves Like Us,” highlights the scene.
1. Duckie and Andie hold on to each others’ hands for dear life, and brace the prom, where a devestated looking Blaine finally tells off his evil friend James Spader and makes one last bid for Andie’s (most undeserved) affections. Duckie, who has insisted from the beginning of the movie that his one goal in life is to make sure Andie is happy, sees how unhappy she is and will be with himself, and heroically tells her to go to Blaine. He’s offered a glance from some blonde chick as a consolation prize, but that’s bullshit. Andie and Blaine share a kiss by his car, and the movie ends. Thousands of hearts break worldwide. Orchestral Manouevers in the Dark’s gorgeous “If You Leave,” soon to be their first US top 5 hit, makes the scene one of the best in cinematic history. Interesting note: Earlier on in the movie, Duckie hears “If You Leave” on a tape, and remarks on how much he hates the song—clearly foreshadowing his demise at the hands of the song later in the movie.
Pretty in Pink—because even indie kids need to cry sometimes.