I think I was months was born just a few years too early for John Hughes’ iconic 1980s teen films to resonate fully for me. When the best of them, The Breakfast Club, was released in 1985, I was almost twenty-one, a college student...and married with a baby. Although I wasn’t too far from high school chronologically, my life was clearly in a different stage. That said--although maybe not for that reason--my favorite movie associated with the “Brat Pack” era isn’t one of his. It’s the ensemble piece St. Elmo’s Fire, released just a few months after The Breakfast Club and featuring several of the same actors who had been in day-long high-school detention there as recent college graduates. I realize that it’s probably a lesser film artistically, but that doesn’t dim my affection for it.
In You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried --a quote from The Breakfast Club--entertainment journalist Susannah Gora looks at several movies that, taken as a group, still seem to be held high in the affections of the now thirty- and forty-something adults who experienced them, sometimes in multiple viewings, as youth in the 1980s. They were movies that didn’t talk down to teens and young adults--rather, they spoke to us and like us (although perhaps more articulately than most of us). Their characters were authentic, even if the situations they were placed in weren’t always entirely relatable, and--possibly thanks, at least in part, to the simultaneous emergence and influence of MTV--they made use of music in effective new ways that contributed to the films’ emotional impact on their audience.
Although the period Gora considers is effectively bracketed by two films written by Cameron Crowe--1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High and 1989’s Say Anything (his directorial debut)--its primary focus is on writer/director John Hughes and his tales of contemporary Chicago-are teens, including Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Her research for You Couldn’t Ignore Me... included interviews with many of the participants in the movies it covers--writers, directors, actors, producers, and music directors--and offers a great deal of behind-the-scenes detail while mostly avoiding a gossipy tone.
I read this one pretty quickly, and found it informative and insightful--and it made me want to hunt up a few movies to add to the ol’ Netflix queue. Readers and movie-lovers within a decade or so of my age, and who have maintained a connection and affection for the pop culture that they consumed during their 1980s youth, will likely have a similar response to You Couldn’t Ignore Me if You Tried.