No matter how many times I've seen them, there are still two movie endings I cry over every time. No, not "Terms of Endearment" or "Casablanca" or even "Ghost." No. I cry for "Star Wars" when they blow up the Death Star and triumph over the evil empire. And I cry for "Sixteen Candles" when Samantha and Jake kiss on the kitchen counter over the birthday cake.*
And today I got to do that in a movie theater! Walter Reade at Lincoln Center has done a two-day John Hughes retrospective, and I chose to see a double-feature of that movie and "Pretty in Pink." Seeing those movies projected on a big screen, even though I'd seen them dozens of times on video and cable, still made me laugh and cry as always.
We got a special bonus too. Molly Ringwald was sitting in the next row in front of me, and spoke to the audience after "Pretty in Pink." "Candles" with it's wonderful gags, music, young Cusack sightings, Anthony Michael Hall's suave geek coolness and fast-paced yet authentic dialogue is still my favorite. But the emotion of the other movie still gets to me. Andie is the free-thinking girl from the poor side of town, who wears funky, home-tailored vintage clothes. Her best friend, "Duckie" (played by Jon Cryer) dresses in old zoot suits with plaid shirt layers and suspenders, pointy shoes and fedoras, has a pompadour and knows every lyric to old Otis Redding songs. And he's in love with Andie, but she doesn't seem to notice. Instead, inexplicably, she prefers the pale, wide-eyed, linen pant-and-jacket-wearing Blane (Andrew McCarthy), from the rich sector. And his best friend is the snide, linen pant-and-jacket-wearing Steff, played by the master scenery ingester, James Spader (this movie was his appetizer). Eventually, Andie and Blane get together, much to Duckie and Steff's horror (Steff is in love with her too, but pretends to hate her because she has refused his advances), class and family struggles ensue, and then everything comes to a head at the Prom ("What about Prom, Blane? NO!!! What. About. PROM????"). This is all fleshed out with terrific scenes with Andie and her eccentrically hip older pal Iona (Annie Potts) and Andie and her single dad (mom left them when she was a kid), Harry Dean Stanton. In the end, Andie goes back to Blane, who came to Prom alone, with Duckie's blessing. OMD ensues.
I ate all of it up all over again, and still coveted much of Andie's cool cardigans and jewelry. I also wondered again how she could pick the boring, Blane, whose only interesting feature is his ability to seemingly dilate his pupils at will, over the awesome, funny, cool and cute Duckie. Apparently that was the original ending. But in test screenings, audiences wanted their Cinderella story with an escape to the castle, so there ya go.
Then Molly Ringwald (above, best my iPhone could do from the distance), adultly glammed in black and metallic heels, took the stage to speak and take audience questions. I wanted to ask her about the running theme in John Hughes movies wherein the lead characters usually have poignant conversations with Dads, but Moms are often absent or in the background. But I realized she'd have to answer for him and not herself. So instead I asked her, knowing at the time she was very into personal style and indie rock music, if she had any input on her P in P wardrobe and which outfit was her favorite. Apparently she HATED the prom outfit her character makes for herself out of old pink dresses (so do most people) at the time and kept everything but that. Now she looks upon it as iconic of the era and wishes she'd kept it. She says if it ever goes up for auction she wants to get it back.
Soon it was time to stop so they could continue the marathon, next up "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Another gem. But it was time for me to head back to Brooklyn. As I left, I felt a real lump in my throat. Back when those movies came out, I was 13 and 15, daydreaming of what might be my adult life, somehow always knowing, in Wilton Connecticut, that I'd end up in New York City. But the life I was dreaming about wasn't much like the one I have now. As my tears dried on my cheeks while passing Lincoln Center's luminescence, the Met's Chagall paintings all lit up with the lovely new Das Rheingold poster hanging out front, the fountain spraying in the light, I had to stop and look. I'd known this very spot since my earliest memories. Molly Ringwald herself said she'd never imagined speaking in front of an audience here all these years later about these movies. And here I was going home. Here. My city. Not to the life I'd imagined, but still not a bad one. With great friends, family and fun places to go any time I want and a great apartment in a fab neighborhood I would have loved if I were Andie. Things could be worse. I could have all my hair stuck in a door jam and cut off by my drunken friends.
Well, for now, as Duckie would say, "I'm off like a dirty shirt!"
*OK. I also always cry at the end of "The Iron Giant."