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Pretty in Pink (Paramount Presents)
Reassessing Pretty in Pink one year short of the film's 35th anniversary (now finally on Blu-ray for the first time), it's interesting what an outlier it is in screenwriter/producer John Hughes' oeuvre. Most of his films have a central plot point that frames the entire movie -- being stuck in detention (The Breakfast Club), an important birthday (Sixteen Candles), shirking responsibilities (Ferris Bueller's Day Off), sci-fi experimentation (Weird Science), the frustration of family (Home Alone). Pretty in Pink is simpler, less constructed, following Andie (Molly Ringwald) in the last few weeks before she graduates high school, figuring out what she wants, if anything, from a theoretically kind rich boy named Blane (Andrew McCarthy), or her longtime friend Duckie (Jon Cryer). The film has some thoughts on class, and the protagonists are classic Hughes rebels, but there's a freedom here that many of Hughes' other works don't share.
Hughes wrote the script with Ringwald in mind after working with her on The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles, and it's a pretty great role. Andie expresses her independence (and deals with her own lack of self-confidence about money) by designing her own clothing out of things she buys in thrift shops or gets on the cheap. She is extremely supportive of her father (an especially charming Harry Dean Stanton), who has struggled with his own self-confidence in the years since his wife/Andie's mom left, and has a female mentor in the form of her boss Iona (a delightful Annie Potts), who runs the record store where Andie works. What's especially nice about Andie is that she has principles, she has interests, and yet she's not easily classifiable when it comes to her personality. She is guarded, fiercely independent, wonderfully creative, lonely, and kind all at once. As previously mentioned, many Hughes characters defy the boxes they've been put into, which can be a valid shortcut to enriching a character, but Andie hasn't been trapped in any image, which makes her feel even more authentic.
Then there's Duckie. Duckie is (from what I understand), a beloved character. Duckie is also terrible in close to every single one of his scenes in the film, nursing a long-standing crush on Andie that would be fine and normal if he ever talked to her about it. Instead, he goes in a skin-crawlingly creepy, passive-aggressive direction, trying to guilt Andie because she has feelings for Blane instead (his temper tantrum when Blane shows up for his first date with Andie is thoroughly scummy). In one scene, he even plants a kiss on Iona as a means of getting revenge on Andie for liking Blane better. Hughes and Deutch luck out with Duckie on two counts: test audiences instinctively knew that Andie's only feelings for Duckie are platonic and forced the ending to be changed, and within that context, the film plays as if Duckie learning his behavior is gross is his intended character arc.
Of the central trio, Blane is probably the least-defined character. The film states that Blane is rich, and offers up a few tidbits about his character, but we never see his parents, nor learn anything substantial about his home life. McCarthy is charming in the role, and it's clear his interest in Andie is sincere, which is enough to make the movie's central romance work, but there's probably more of Steff (James Spader), an arrogant asshole who seems to take no joy from anything but being cruel to people. The film's class commentary ends up mostly playing like a dash of flavor rather than a central conceit (more clearly emphasizing that Duckie's primary objection to Blane is class-based rather than an extension of his own crush would make him significantly less unpleasant), but the conflict that ultimately brews between Blane and Steff feels true enough, and fits within Hughes' basic spirit.
Taken as a whole, Pretty in Pink might seem messy, but Deutch has a naturalistic touch that makes the rough-around-the-edges approach feel more like authenticity than sloppiness. The film feels less like A Movie in the way that other Hughes films sometimes do, and more like a slice of life, one version of a moment most people remember in their lives. Some fans of the film dislike the alternate ending that Hughes and Deutch came up with after a test audience booed the original climax, but it works in the sense that Pretty in Pink is more about a personal triumph than "happily ever after." Andie stands up for her own unique, idiosyncratic self, and to a certain extent, so do Blane, Iona, Andie's dad, and even Duckie. Pretty in Pink doesn't go for the pleasure centers in the same crowd-pleasing way as the rest of the Brat Pack classics, but that's part of what makes it special.
Pretty in Pink is the 6th disc in the new Paramount Presents line, and all of the releases so far follow the same basic design. The front cover uses the image that graced Paramount's original DVD edition from years ago, which takes the image of the three leads from the theatrical poster, turns it black and white, and higlights Ringwald's character by spot-coloring her shirt and the word "pink" in, well, pink (small side note: I owned this version of the DVD, and for whatever reason, the pink here is much darker and less bright than the pink on the DVD cover). There is also a little tab in the bottom corner with the year on it, a Criterion-esque flourish. The image appears on both the sleeve and the slipcover, which has a flap that folds open to reveal the film's full original theatrical poster (angled horizontally), which features the same image, but not in black and white, framed within a white backdrop. The one-disc release comes in a clear, transparent Viva Elite Blu-ray case, and there is no insert, although there is a monochromatic photo collage with a quote from director Howard Deutch on the reverse of the sleeve.
The Video and Audio
Each title in the Paramount Presents line has been offered up in a new 4K-remastered transfer. There was quite a bit of controversy about the first two entries in the series (To Catch a Thief, and to a lesser extent, King Creole), and there was concern that all of the highly-touted new remasters would be just as contentious. Thankfully, that's not the case: the 1.85:1 1080p AVC transfer here looks outstanding. More than anything, the film's lively, naturalistic color palette has been restored to a vibrant, striking glory. Film grain is preserved, and a whole new layer of fine detail has been revealed thanks to the new scan. Sound is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that might play a little front-heavy for modern viewers accustomed to more three-dimensional sound mixes, but the dialogue sounds sharp and the New Wave soundtrack even sharper. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are included, as well as English, French, German, and Japanese subtitles (which extend to the extras as well).
First, the good. There are two new extras on the disc. First, we have a featurette called "Filmmaker Focus: Howard Deutch on Pretty in Pink" (7:38), a nice little sit-down with the director about his memories of John and working on the movie. There is also an isolated score, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (accessible under the setup menu). The disc also includes the 2006 featurette "The Lost Dance: The Original Ending" (12:16), which dives into the notorious changes made to the film based on test audience scores (although, for the record, this featurette does not include the original ending in full, but rather intersperses some snippets of it with the discussion).
However -- and anyone who's bought one of these Paramount Presents discs surely knows what I'm going to say next -- Paramount has made the inexplicable decision to drop a wealth of extras that were done for the DVD editions of these movies, and Pretty in Pink suffers some of the heaviest losses. The 2006 "Everything's Duckie" DVD edition, from which the "Lost Dance" featurette is taken, also included a whopping 84 additional minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes, as well as an entire audio commentary by Deutch, and a photo gallery. I have no idea why Paramount believes that audiences aren't interested in these extras, or why they've dropped bonuses from each of their releases so far -- if Paramount really wanted to save space on the disc, they could just throw in a reprint of the DVD so that the extras are at least included in the overall package. Deutch also spends about a minute of the disc's brief new interview recounting the same memories he covers in "The Lost Dance." A baffling decision which really brings down the overall score for the bonus features.
An original theatrical trailer for Pretty in Pink is also included.
Pretty in Pink is finally on Blu-ray, and the results are pretty great...with one significant exception. Of course, the film itself is what matters most, but if all viewers wanted was an outstanding presentation, they could get Paramount's new 4K remaster in full UHD quality on digital services. Frankly, while the new featurette with Deutch is pleasant, I wouldn't be surprised if fans would've preferred Paramount skip the creation of new extras if it had meant preserving all of the extras that already exist. The presentation is outstanding, and the opportunity to get the film on Blu-ray is probably still worth it...just keep your DVDs. Recommended.
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