John Hughes has made several psychologically rich and sociologically poignant films about young people, including Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. This time around, his talents are manifest in the screenplay for Pretty in Pink. The story makes some interesting points about peer pressure resulting from class-consciousness in certain high schools. How to handle the barriers set up between groups of kids poses a test of character and courage.
Andie (Molly Ringwald) lives on the wrong side of the tracks with her father (Harry Dean Stanton), an unemployed worker who hasn't been able to shake off the pain of being abandoned by his wife. Mature and responsible beyond her years, Andie cooks, cleans, and cares for her dad. At school, where most of the students come from rich and socially prominent families, Andie is a pariah. Her only friends are Duckie (Jon Cryer), an oddball whose comic antics and self-deprecating humor act as armor against the school snobs, and Iona (Annie Potts), a flaky, insecure survivor from the 1960s who manages the record store where Andie works.
Andie's view of herself and her particular niche in the world are challenged when Blane (Andrew McCarthy) asks her to the prom. Tired of the cynicism of his best friend Steff (James Spader) and the jaded parties of the "richies," he finds Andie's independent spirit refreshing. But it is difficult for him to handle Steff's disapproval and the scorn of other classmates. Andie, on the other hand, must sort out her true feelings for Duckie, who is madly in love with her, and deal with the shame she feels for being poor. When Blane backs out on their date, Andie's spunk comes to the fore along with a pretty pink gown she has created herself.
Although the film's ending seems out of sync with what has preceded it and consequently does not work on an emotional level, Pretty in Pink stands head and shoulders over many films about youth. The young actors are all attractive and understandable in their idiosyncrasies and prejudices. Hughes remains at the head of the class as an analyst of youth cultures in America.