Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Voice of a Suburban Generation: Director John Hughes Dead at 59

I am saddened by the death of film director John Hughes.

When I think of the 1980s, I think of two things -- High School and the movies of John Hughes. I don't know if John Hughes' films perfectly captured the high school experience my friends and I lived, or if his films shaped the way that we perceived the world around us. All I know is that John Hughes' early films have touched my heart in wonderful ways. I empathized with Molly Ringwald's character in Pretty in Pink. I wasn't one of the popular kids in school, but I wasn't one of the rebels either. My lot was somewhere between them all. When I watched The Breakfast Club, I saw a little of myself in all the male characters. None of them were me, but all of them were. I always wanted to be as self assured as Ferris Bueller, but felt like a working class version of Cameron.

But it wasn't just the teen films of Hughes that touched my heart. On the contrary, his films seemed to grow with me -- though some like Mr. Mom would be films my life would have to catch up to. In 1987 and 1988, Hughes wrote three films that have shaped the way I look at life and family.

Plains, Trains, and Automobiles is THE classic Thanksgiving film and Hughes keeps you laughing until the end...when you weep love for John Candy's character.

She's Having a Baby wonderfully captures the worry and stress of the soon to be father. When Jody and I were making our "family plans," I was constantly having flashbacks to the many times that she and I had watched the film. I didn't experience many of the anxieties that Kevin Bacon's character goes through. But when Clio was rushed off to NICU because she wasn't clearing the fluid out of her lungs and I had to simultaneously comfort my wife, accompany my other daughter Nora to her first bath, and run off to NICU to check up on my second twin, in a strange way it was Hughes' film that prepared me for the possible combination of joy, fear, sadness, and elation that accompanied the birth of Jody and my twins.

And then there's Uncle Buck. Who doesn't love Uncle Buck?

One could go on and on about how entertaining most of John Hughes' films were. One does wonder what happened after Home Alone that so many of Hughes' films became slapstick comedies about young children, though I imagine that might be an bi-product of being a grandfather. Besides, I kinda liked Drillbit Taylor -- which was his idea, if not screenplay.

Yes, I am saddened by the death of John Hughes, but I did find one thing that made me feel hopeful when I read the Hollywood Reporter obit. It included the clause, "He is survived by his wife of 39 years." It is nice to read that someone who wrote so well about family was married to the same woman for almost 4 decades. It's particularly nice when we live in times when we see so many public and messy divorces.

Thanks for the stories. Now...where to begin with the Hughes marathon. I think Vacation is a perfect place to start.
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