Pretty in Pink, a classic tale: Boy meets Girl. Boy is rich. Girl is poor. Girl’s BFF is an eccentric guy who is madly in love with her. Girl picks pretty rich Boy. Boy ditches her for shallow reasons. Girl makes ugly dress. Girl goes to prom alone only to be rescued by consolation prize BFF. Girl ends up with pretty rich Boy in the end anyway because everyone loves Andrew McCarthy.
Of course, thirty plus years of re-watching this movie has led to a general consensus amongst viewers that Andy should have picked her BFF Duckie. One day that pretty smile of Blane’s will fade or he’ll try to use it to weasel out of some dumb crap like flirting with the pretty woman next door while Andy tries to hustle their brood of children into their suburban mansion, juggling the groceries alone.
And she’ll look back on her largely lust-driven, desperate need for validation from the cool guy and wonder why she didn’t notice that their relationship was rife with communication issues from the start–or why she didn’t care that his friends were all colossal jerks that she now has to make nice with at the country club. After all, what was his big gesture of romance after spinelessly shunning her when James Spader shamed him for “slumming it”? He shows up to prom alone and claims he “always believed in her”?? Barf. But you’ve heard that all before and I’m here to talk about Pretty in Pink‘s sub-plot.
That being, of course, that Andy’s mom ditched the family three years prior to the start of the film and her father is utterly blown apart, barely functional, for most of the film because of it. I first saw this movie at eleven and I thought he was an alcoholic because that was most of the dysfunction I had seen in my own extended family. I didn’t know what grief and depression looked like. I didn’t understand what it feels like when someone you love deeply abandons you out of nowhere. I certainly didn’t realize how short three years could be and, for Andy as all of us, the difference between thirteen and sixteen must have felt like a lifetime.
But for her father, it isn’t. He wakes up every day in the same house he lived in with his happy thirteen year-old child and his seemingly happy wife. He wakes up alone, haunted by his memories of the past and the memories of his aspirations for what his family could have been. It must feel like someone has died. It must feel much worse than if someone had died. And yet, he is still deeply in love with his wife.
I re-watched a scene between Andy’s father and Duckie as soon as I heard of Harry Dean Stanton’s passing. He’s a terrific actor. He’s shown off his chops in much better movies than this. I find Pretty in Pink to be a pretty weak entry into the John Hughes cannon (go ahead, fight me in the comments if you will), but it’s Harry Dean Stanton who offers the one sage piece of advice in a script full of melodrama unsuitable for the subject matter.
In this scene, Duckie (Jon Cryer) meets with Andy’s father (Harry Dean Stanton) to reassure him that he is serious about Andy’s welfare and cares deeply about her wellbeing. Of course, he doesn’t need to offer his assurances because he and Andy aren’t dating. And let’s be honest, this whole exchange shows that Duckie has some pretty poor boundaries, so maybe Andy should just wait until college to get serious about anyone. But Duckie’s feelings are genuine and her father–no stranger to unrequited love–offers him some advice.
In my opinion, Duckie is the real winner of Pretty in Pink. I guess we’re supposed to think that he’s such a “good friend” that he wanted Andy to be happy with Blane and that’s why he’s such a good sport at the prom. But I hope it’s more that he learned how to be a good friend to himself.
John Hughes’s original ending would have subverted this exchange between Duckie and Andy’s dad. If he had his way, Duckie would have ended up with Andy, but ultimately this didn’t test well (see above re: Andrew McCarthy’s smile). And that makes this subtly poignant scene with Harry Dean Stanton feel all the more relevant to the overall plot of the film. I’m not worried about Duckie ending up sad and alone in his middle age like Andy’s father. I feel like he’s going to bounce back from pretty much whatever life throws at him and he’s going to do it while wearing a bolo tie.