Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Remembering John Hughes

I am an enormous John Hughes fan, ever since I cried during The Breakfast Club. I saw myself reflected in the dark haired, off-her-rocker, artistic Allison Reynalds, the girl who buried herself in her over sized coat and shook dandruff on her drawing to make it look like it was snowing. I didn't have the dandruff problem (I don't think), but I definitely was that lost, emotionally disturbed girl when I was 13 and 14 years old. After that movie, I was a John Hughes devotee for life.

Several weeks ago, I had the urge to watch John Hughe's movies again, so I rented the Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. I felt the same reaction as I did when I was 17 and saw the Breakfast Club for the first time, crying through most of the film and cheering wildly at the end. How had he managed to show so profoundly the inner workings of the teen-aged psyche?

Last Thursday, John Hughes died of a heart attack. He was 59. I felt like a friend I'd lost touch with a long time ago had died. I was stunned and saddened. He was so young.

Today I stumbled across the book, "Don't You Forget About Me: Contemporary Writers On The Films of John Hughes" edited by Jaime Clark. The book has received mixed reviews, but I'm interested to read how other authors were influenced by his story telling. What made John Hughes movies so compelling? How did he manage to connect so strongly with the angst that was 1980's teen age life? They are classic films now and story tellers of all types can learn from them. Pay attention to how he plays with stereotypes and cliches. He bends those assumptions on their heads by using them to illuminate the inner workings of a character. Those characters stay with us because they reveal hidden parts of ourselves, letting us laugh and learn from our own foibles. That is what a good story should do.

Rest well, John Hughes. And thank you for the inspiration.

1 comment:

Jane Mackay said...

I also cried.

Molly Ringwald provides insight into why those two movies, in particular, did and still do pierce the psyche and the soul in her tribute to Hughes in the NYT:

Warning: you'll cry again.