I’m willing to bet that most people who watched the 1986 Brat Pack film Pretty in Pink weren’t convinced by the relationship between Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) and Blane McDonough (Andrew McCarthy). Obviously she was too far into the friend zone for anything to happen with best friend and sympathy character Phil ‘Duckie’ Dale (Jon Cryer) but I always thought Blane had about as much charisma as a cushion. Even his arrogant playboy friend Steff (James Spader) would have been more interesting to date than Blane was – and he wore loafers with no socks on. Interestingly, the film’s original ending featured Andie and Duckie ending up as a couple, but the test audiences that watched the first screening didn’t like that, and so it was changed to let Andie end up with her fairy tale (if cataclysmically dull) prince, Blane.
Pretty in Pink centres on the pitfalls of love across the classes; two senior high school students who come from completely different social backgrounds. The aforementioned Blane is a ‘richie’; one of a number of ‘teenagers’ at the school from wealthy backgrounds and who then obviously have to treat those who come from working class families like dirt. I use the word teenagers loosely; Ringwald still fitted that description when the movie was made, but McCarthy, Cryer and especially Spader were all twenty plus when they attempted to portray the stresses of adolescence.
Andie is one of these working class peasants; she lives with her barely-employed father Jack (Harry Dean Stanton) in a run-down house in a less than desirable part of the city, and draws further taunts from the poshos (especially school bitch Benny, played by Kate Vernon) by dressing in many of her own fashion creations (this was made in the 1980s so think lace, scarves, lacy scarves, pointless bits of material appliqued on to over-sized blazers and ill-fitting hats). She works at new wave record store TRAX, which is managed by Iona (Annie Potts); the older woman is an empathetic (if slightly barmy) mentor to her friend Andie.
So, let’s move on to the romance. Duckie is obviously in love with Andie, but knowing that she doesn’t feel the same about him he always tries to make out it’s a joke when he’s with her. They spend their free school time in an area frequented by the other ‘freaks’, i.e. the followers of punk, new wave and metal with long hair and leather jackets. Not a well-pressed chino trouser in sight.
Blane, whilst rich and slightly sappy, doesn’t take part in the name-calling and point scoring that his peers do. Which was why Andie falls completely in love with him after he makes the effort to risk humiliation in the ‘alternative’ area (the vitriol goes the other way as well; the poorer students are also pretty nasty about the well-off ones if they outnumber them). Duckie isn’t convinced of Blane’s intentions (or his name for that matter) and on the evening of Andie’s first date with the preppy, floppy-haired posh boy he goes down to the record store to try and persuade her not to go; sure that Blane will only end up hurting her. Blane is late, which only further convinces Duckie of his lack of worth. Eventually he does turn up however, but by then Duckie and Andie have had a huge row, with Duckie saying a couple of things in the heat of the moment that he probably wished later he hadn’t, before storming out.
Andie is unsettled by the argument with her friend, but she is still excited about going out with Blane, until she sees what he has in mind however. He takes her to Steff’s party, where everybody is rich, drunk and abusive to Blane’s choice of date. Not surprisingly Andie doesn’t feel comfortable in this hostile environment and walks out; when Blane catches up with her he apologises and admits that his friends can be idiots on occasion. Andie suggests they try somewhere she knows; a club called CATS that she frequents often and is full of her kind of people. Blane is equally out of his comfort zone here; and the fact that Duckie (who normally can’t get in) has managed to get past the bouncer (Andrew Dice Clay) with Iona’s help, and is less than pleasant to Andie’s beau doesn’t help. Andie and Blane don’t stay long, and as a desperate act to gain Andie’s attention as she leaves Duckie grabs Iona for a kiss.
Blane drives Andie home after many protestations on her part. He eventually gets it out of her that she doesn’t want him to see where she lives as she’s ashamed of her poor neighbourhood and house. He overrides her doubts that she’s not good enough for him by asking her to the prom, and then kissing her. When she goes into the house she’s obviously pretty darn happy.
So they go to the prom, fall properly in love, Duckie gets over it, finds a girl for himself, and the closing music plays over the two happy couples. The End.
No, of course that’s not what happens – where would be the fun in that? After seeing Andie a couple more times Blane confronts Steff about his behaviour towards her at the party. Steff is unrepentant, asking Blane why on earth he is interested in ‘trash’ like Andie. Whilst Blane is angry with his friend’s snobbish attitude, when Steff tells him he has to choose between her and his group of friends he is obviously shaken by Steff’s ultimatum. Andie only discovers that there’s a problem after Blane disappears from her radar; and when she calls his house it’s obvious that he hasn’t mentioned her to his parents.
Meanwhile, Jack calls his daughter to him, and presents her with a pink monstrosity of a dress that he’s bought for her, and hopes she could make something out of. Andie is delighted with the colour and assures him that she can, but something isn’t right. She asks Jack how he could have afforded the dress, before confronting him with the fact that she knows he’s been home when he was supposed to be at his new job. Jack tells her he missed the interview and has been pretending to go to work, Andy erupts and Jack finally admits that he isn’t coping after Andie’s mother walked out on them both.
On a bit of a confrontation high, Andie then sees Blane at school and with a steely glare (albeit accompanied with a trembling bottom lip) she asks him why he’s avoiding her. Too much of a coward to explain what has happened with Steff he tries to put her off with vague answers, but her constant questioning (she says ‘What about prom?’ so many times that by the end the words themselves become so meaningless that she might as well be chanting ‘Finn Family Moomintroll’ instead) finally wears him down and he lies through his teeth that he had forgotten that he asked somebody else a while ago. Andie, quite rightly, doesn’t believe him and shouts at him that he’s ashamed to be seen with her before turning and walking away.
She’s down, but not out - and a chat with Iona, who is wrapped in the cosiness of a new love affair of her own, puts Andie in a stronger frame of mind. The night of the prom arrives, and Andie walks into the living room of her house wearing her latest home-sown creation. Now I’m no expert but even allowing for the fact it’s the decade that fashion forgot I think Andie looks like she’s slipped into an ill-fitting pillow case. I’m talking a quality, satin pillow case from Marks & Spencer, but still, a pillow case none-the-less. But it’s Andie’s big, brave moment here – sod the fact that Blane dumped her and she’s still not talking to Duckie, she’s going to the prom alone! – so let’s ignore the fact she’s going to parade in front of her scathing schoolmates wearing a shiny bedding set and concentrate on the fact that her hair looks fabulous instead.
So, off she goes, and of course she gets there and has a mini-panic, and of course Duckie is there to hold her hand and of course we’re all thinking ‘Maybe they do end up together after all’ and of course we’re all wrong. Steff says something customarily insulting to the pair, and Blane, realising that the reason Steff is so down on Andie is because he once pursued her and she turned him down, finally finds his cojones and tells him where to go.
Blane approaches the couple: he offers a handshake to Duckie (which Duckie grudgingly returns) before turning to Andie and telling her ‘I always believed in you…I just didn’t believe in myself.’ He then lays the weakest kiss ever seen in film history on Andie’s cheek, before flouncing off into the ether. Duckie tells Andie that actually, Blane isn’t like the other rich students, and that she has to go after him. They embrace, and Andie leaves to find her true love. Duckie is left momentarily alone, before he spots an attractive girl (Kristy Swanson) giving him the eye across the room. Breaking the fourth wall Duckie mugs to the camera and sets off to meet her.
To be honest, that would be a better ending for me but the cameras pan off Duckie, and catch up with Andie and Blane in the car park. They kiss, and as we’ve been listening to OMD’s ‘If You Leave’ for the last few minutes it’s built up to feel like more of a pay-off than it actually is. And that really is The End.
P.S. Several times whilst writing this I misspelt ‘Blane’ as ‘Bland’. I corrected it but – and no offence to Andrew McCarthy as he did his best with a very wet character –if I hadn’t it would have been a much more truthful description of a totally uncharismatic romantic hero.