Friday, October 14, 2011

The Endearing Endurance of Sixteen Candles

It’s always a treat when I happen upon a John Hughes movie on TV. Movies from the 1980s remind me of my adolescence; of the time when I developed an interest in movies, started watching lots of them, and developed a real love for film.

I still love watching 80's movies today and it's not merely for sentimental reasons. I think many 80's films have stood the test of time and still provide great entertainment even though they represent a different era and can seem a bit dated because of that. What doesn't get old is the way in which 80's films trace the hopes and disappointments of their characters with bittersweet sensibility and honesty.

It was a welcome surprise to find Sixteen Candles on TV last weekend. It’s one of the landmark teen comedies of the 80’s written and directed by John Hughes. The film is silly and full of clichés, with lapses of taste here and there, but it’s also heartwarming, hilarious and full of wacky and wonderful characters.

The film follows the highs and lows of a teenage girl's 16th birthday. Samantha wakes up on her birthday to much disappointment. She's dismayed by the complete lack of physical transformation (having hoped for some signs of physical progression from age 15 to 16.) Her family has forgotten her birthday because they're preoccupied with her sister's imminent wedding. She's got a crush on a handsome senior who she's sure doesn't know she's alive, and she's being stalked by a dork named Ted.

Just when Samantha thought that things couldn’t get any worse, she returns home from school to find that her grandparents have taken over her room, that she’s sleeping on the couch, and that they’ve brought their hapless Japanese exchange student along.

What follows is a high school dance, a heart-to-heart with Ted, a wild house party, a crush revealed, and some unlikely love connections. The combination is one of hilarity, touching honesty, fun surprise and a 16-year-old's perfect ending. In Sixteen Candles, Hughes captures the essence of what it's like to be a teenager in high school and what it's like to be the only teenager in a large family. He poses the question - Does it matter if nobody notices when a girl turns 16? - and offers an honest and touching representation of the angst that's felt at that pivotal age.


  1. It's probably my 2nd favorite John Hughes movie behind Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I just love how one girl's birthday was an unpleasant experience as she tries to cope with it. "I can't believe it. They fucking forgot my birthday."

    I hope I got that right. I also learned that it's Sofia Coppola's favorite film.

  2. Sixteen Candles was a great movie and i thought it had a certain something extra in comparison to other 80s teen movies! Great review!

  3. @thevoid99 - Ferris Beuller's Day off is also my favourite John Hughes film. Stay tuned for my next post.

    Molly Ringwald plays Samantha flawlessly and she does a great job of conveying the disappointment and upset that Samantha feels.

    Classic line in the film.

    Interesting tidbit about Sofia Coppola.

    @Aziza - thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the review. It's definitely a standout movie from that generation of films.


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