Sometimes I worry that we are too focused on the good ol' days to ever appreciate anything new. With the passing of John Hughes, that fear surfaces as a nagging feeling that no one is ever going to make movies like he did ever again. I think that, then I realize that there is actually a new crop of filmmakers who are just now getting to show us the kinds of things that Hughes inspired them to create. Look specifically at films like (500) Days of Summer, the Judd Apatow filmography, and maybe Juno where young characters and their problems aren't pandered to or glossed over, but treated with the sincerity that young people themselves feel about those times. So in memory of the champion of oddballs and outcasts who never made those characters seem cartoonish, tonight's double feature is split between my favorite John Hughes film and one that seems just a little inspired by it.
While it's hard to pick a favorite from the films that Hughes wrote and/or directed, I have to go with The Breakfast Club since I know that I've seen it more than any other. What I have always loved about the movie is that it perfectly captures the fractured cliques of high school society using real characters rather than charicatures. It's too easy to have macho jocks and pretentious art students in teen movies--every high school movie has them--but to write these characters with real flaws and motivations that make them sympathetic takes something special. I've identified with every one of the Breakfast Club's members and that's a testament to the way that those characters are drawn on the page and the screen.
American Teen isn't a John Hughes film, but the early reaction to it so often compared it to a documentary version of The Breakfast Club that the producers whipped up a promotional campaign that paid homage to Hughes' classic. Like The Breakfast Club, this film examines life in the fifedoms of high school society, but it does so by following a handful of kids over the course of a year. Hannah, the arty girl who wants to get out of her small town and do something creative with her life kind of steals the show as her arc forces disparate worlds to collide, but the geeky kid who marvels at the grease that his face leaves on the table while on a date is a wonder too. Nanette Burstein tells a great story with these kids--and while there's some obvious movie magic going on to make the narrative more compelling, there's no denying that by the end, I wanted to know more about what each of these kids was up to, and I was hoping for the best for all of them.