R.I.P. JOHN HUGHES, 1950-2009
Writer/director/producer John Hughes died today. He suffered a heart attack at the age of 59.
There is no underplaying the impact the man had on generations of teens. I was the same age as most of his characters when his movies were coming out, and I know it's the cliche to say how much they spoke about my life and the lives of those around me, but you know, cliches tend to be true a lot of the time.
The thing about Hughes was that he didn't just make films about how life was, but how it could be. His movies said it was okay to be you, and if you were true to yourself, you could have the kind of fun that his characters were having on the screen. That meant a nerd like me, a Farmer Ted, could be a Jake Ryan if he wanted to, at the end of Sixteen Candles there is no difference. Duckie could have a girl, too, even if it's not the one he wanted. Which in itself was the little dose of reality: it won't work out exactly, but it will work out. Like at the end of The Breakfast Club, there is the moment where the characters have to say, "Really? Will we really acknowledge each other in the halls tomorrow?" Hughes told us that we might not, but we'd be the better people for having done so.
And for every dweeb like me on the planet, this was the coolest moment in cinema. If only we could enter at the right time, just as the needle touches vinyl:
Fuck, there's even a Smiths poster on the wall.
Say what you will, and many are already digging out the "Yes, we liked him, but..." routine, but I don't care. His movies got through to me. He had a great ear for dialogue, remarkable taste in music, and a genuine humanity that never wavered, even as he strayed from the teen films to adult movies, silly comedies, and children's trash. During the 1980s, when it was expected that everyone was only out for themselves, John Hughes took the time to worry about the ones he thought might get left behind. Remember the Bowie quote from the start of The Breakfast Club: "And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, they are immune to your consultations, they're quite aware of what they're going through.” That summed up the John Hughes approach: I get their problems, they get their problems, and you don't, so you'd better get of the way.
I don't know what else to say. I never knew the man, I can't speak to his personal life. 59 is way too young, but hell, what he did with those six decades can never be touched. His movies are the thing, anyway, that's the man we know, and so I point you to some of my reviews of his work:
The High School Flashback Collection
Pretty in Pink
Some Kind of Wonderful
Watch one of John Hughes' movies tonight if you can. You won't be sorry.