i’ll give hughes a pass on this, his first, directorial effort. certainly he shows some promise – there’s a good use of music and he captures the teenage experience fairly well – but overall this one falls short. it’s not that he’s representing the teenage experience in an entirely realistic way, though there are certainly elements of realism here, it’s more that he’s conveying the hopes and fears of teenagers in a somewhat outlandish story. the whole bit with anthony michael hall and his driving the prom queen type girl home or ringwald’s parents forgetting about her birthday are less meant as realistic possibilities and more as symbols of what the teenage experience is about. as teenagers we think our parents don’t care about us or don’t notice us or ruin our love lives when they do (as exhibited by the grandparents temporarily scaring off ringwald’s love interest over the phone). he also captures the hierarchy of high school, though he focuses on it more tightly in the breakfast club. high school is a caste system if there ever was one in america and this is something hughes knows and exposes. so, in many ways this is a great film because of its ability to capture the teenage experience, though it doesn’t do it in a “realistic” way.
where this film fails is where its imitators failed even more miserably – the ending is cheesy. also, there is too much exposition from ringwald here. in ferris bueller’s day off broderick’s fourth wall commentary worked amazingly well, here ringwald’s talking to herself just doesn’t. but hughes quickly figured out what works and what doesn’t. in the next five years he created planes trains and automobiles, uncle buck, breakfast club and ferris bueller’s day off. joan cusack does a fine job. one last note – the thing that makes uncle buck and planes trains and automobiles near perfect and separate from his other work, is the discovery of john candy. john candy incorporates a working class element that is missing from his other films, an element that elevates the humor and texture of hughes’s work to pantheon levels.