Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Weird Science of John Hughes

Many a moon ago I posted some ramblings on John Hughes, whether or not he deserved his own special memorial at the Oscars, a documentary about trying to secure an interview with him and just how realistic his films were, leading to a debate on what film realism truly is.

Not bad for a dude who's entire career could just about be summed up with one word: Bueller.

Maybe auteurism does exist in American film after all?

Why that word, though?

Well aren't all of his best films (save for Planes, Trains and Automobiles; the proof that he actually was a humanist and not just a teen sympathizer) about young men and women going against the societal norms laid out for them? Aren't they also about teens not only learning to dance to the beat of their own tune, but finding out just which instrument they are best suited to play? The Breakfast Club (Hughes' "masterpiece"?) bringing the whole band together in one place?

Last night I watched Weird Science, which, although I haven't seen She's Having a Baby or Curly Sue, I think it's safe to say is Hughes' most rambunctious film. For better or worse that is. But I don't know, I kind of admired that quality about it. No other Hughes teen comedy went quite so far, after all, as to have computer generated women, metal-faced leather clad biker dudes or a big brother turned into a life sized frog man.

Even big brother gaining access to the hero's bedroom via shotgun blast is a little out of this world. Although, a movie that features all the contents of a room being sucked up and shot out the chimney including the young girl playing the piano who is, god bless her, strong enough to hold on longer than her bra, can't be all that bad, can it?

So yep, the movie is fun. But what holds it all together and propels it up the ranks into note worthy-ness, as always, is John Hughes the humanist. Sure, Hughes the teen anarchist is what we love, but it doesn't work unless you can relate to the teens at the centre of the drama. 

So, just as important in the mix is the John Hughes that relates to the teens that don't fit. The two best buds who can't get a girl to even look at them, let alone get laid. The dudes who get picked on by the popular morons with the hot girlfriends.

If that's you, forget about the mechanics of plot or the depth of the reality. John Hughes was on your side.

And that's what I finally think has kept Hughes alive and relevant all these years. He played on both the emotions and imaginations of teenagers who don't understand that everyone goes through the same things and provided solace in knowing that maybe your older brother is a flaming douchebag as well,  but at least he's not blowing down doors one round of buckshot at a time, even if, sometimes, that's what it feels like.


  1. This was a favorite when I was a teen. My friends and I could, and did, and I still can, quote at least half the lines in the movie.

    So it was really interesting to watch it a couple months ago and show it to my wife for the first time. She liked it but I don't think she "got" it. Then again, her teenage years were not like mine. While I was watching Hughes, she was listening to The Sex Pistols and thinking that Tom Hanks was the antichrist. (She now likes Tom Hanks, I will say.)

    What I love about Hughes is that yeah, he had this movie in him, and yeah, he had all those other movies in him too. I recently (well, two years ago) did an analysis to determine my favorite director of all time, based on my Flickchart rankings and requiring each director I considered to have made at least four films that I'd seen. Unfortunately, many great directors who would have contended were sunk by the system I used, which allowed one bad movie to drag down their total. But it also illustrated which directors essentially had no bad movies, which is how I think of Hughes, and which is why he came out on top in this particular exercise.

    Then again, I also have never seen Curly Sue.

  2. Vance, I'll assume that when you say Hughes had no bad movies you're referring to his writing and directing output. I don't think anyone is in line to write a great movie essay on Beethoven, although if you have one in you I'll be the first in line to read it ;)

  3. I would have to be, because I loathe Beethoven.