For young people hitting the heart of adolescence between 1984 and 1987, John Hughes was the name-brand self-appointed voice of a generation, churning out teen comedies and romances as quickly as the money rolled in. He found a winning formula and stuck with it: the star-crossed love of two characters from opposite cliques, the popular and the unpopular, which usually translated into the rich and the poor. Hughes always identified with the underdog, but his films are often fantasies of upward mobility, ending with the Cinderella hero realizing that it's okay to keep the glass slippers. If Hughes wanted teens to transcend the dollar, then today's teen comedies have honored his legacy, by accepting his vision of high school as a brutal caste system while throwing out the class issues altogether. In a way, it's actually refreshing to revisit Hughes' carbon-copy romantic comedies Pretty In Pink and Some Kind Of Wonderful, because it's become so rare for screen teens to fret about not having money. With his filmmaking machine operating at full tilt, Hughes passed off the directorial duties to Howard Deutch, who dutifully and literally opens both films on the wrong side of the tracks. By far the better of the two movies, 1986's Pretty In Pink completes an informal trilogy of Hughes collaborations with Molly Ringwald, captured here at the height of her angsty charm as a lower-class outcast in love. The child of a broken home, burdened by her unemployed father (a soulful Harry Dean Stanton) and her needy best friend (Jon Cryer), Ringwald catches the vacant blue eyes of Andrew McCarthy, a "richie" who runs in different social circles. Their first date pounds home their class differences: McCarthy takes her to a party thrown by James Spader at his oiliest ("Would I treat my parents' home like this if I cared about money?"), while Ringwald takes him to a hole-in-the-wall nightclub where punks glare at his yuppie sportcoat and haircut. The whole affair builds predictably to the senior prom—which looks more like a 10-year reunion—but Ringwald sells her role (and McCarthy's, too) by taking it seriously, with disarming openness and conviction. Hughes betrays her with a copout ending brought about by test screenings, but her affecting performance draws out the all-consuming shame that goes along with budget living. With Some Kind Of Wonderful, Hughes and Deutch made the same movie one year later, fixing the ending and screwing up just about everything else. Swapping genders and changing names, they plug in a new love triangle, with Eric Stoltz for Ringwald, Mary Stuart Masterson for Cryer, and Lea Thompson for McCarthy. (And, in the minor roles, Craig Sheffer for Spader, Elias Koteas for Annie Potts, and John Ashton for Stanton.) The only novel twist is in casting Thompson as poor and popular, which causes her snooty peers to immediately dismiss her for dating Stoltz, a part-time grease-monkey from a working-class family. Masterson, easily the least convincing drummer in cinema history, plays Stoltz's tomboy best friend, who secretly has a crush on him. Some Kind Of Wonderful goes through the same paces as Pretty In Pink, paying lip service to rich arrogance and poor pride. But in refining his can't-miss formula, Hughes did little but shave two full minutes off the running time.
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If Jesse Armstrong wanted Jeremy Strong to jump in a river, he would have put it in the script