Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman
Simon & Schuster: 6/14/16
eBook review copy; 352 pages
Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies (and Why We Don't Learn Them from Movies Anymore)
by Hadley Freeman is a very highly recommended look at
selected movies from the 1980s. Freeman writes, "I wanted to write about
why the Fun Eighties Movies... are also Good
Eighties Movies." She does an exemplary job of accomplishing that goal.
This is one of those books that you can read straight through or just
jump to the chapters/movies that interest you.
Chapters include: Dirty Dancing (1987), The Princess Bride (1987),
in Pink (1986), When Harry Met Sally (1989), Ghostbusters (1984),
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986),
Steel Magnolias (1989), Baby Boom (1987), Back to the Future (1985),
Batman (1989), and Eddie Murphy’s
Eighties Movies. The discussion is not limited to these movies as
Freeman examines many other movies made in each chapter. In-between
chapters are fun list like: Top Ten Best Power Ballads on an Eighties
Movie Soundtrack; Top Ten Fashion Moments; Top Five British Bad Guys;
Top Five Montages; Top Ten Best Love Songs on an Eighties Movie
Soundtrack; Top Ten Best Rock Songs on an Eighties Movie Soundtrack; Top
Ten Weirdest Songs; and top ten quotes from several eighties movies.
She also rates the Batman movies from best to worst. The book includes
footnotes and a list of notes from each chapter.
While some readers may not agree with Freeman's analysis of the movies
she discusses, I found her examination and corresponding critical
thoughts and opinions interesting. Even if I disagreed, I found her
points engaging. Let me make it clear, however, that I was an adult in
the 1980's, a young adult in the early 80's, but certainly older than
the target audience at the time for, say, The Breakfast Club, so I
watched these movies as an adult with an adult's sensibilities. I'm not
going to discuss every move in the book, but I will a few of them.
I would agree that Dirty
Dancing is "one of the great feminist
films of all time" due to the realistic manner it covered the subject
matter in the plot that did not involve dancing. I always had a problem
with Grease (1978). It was a fun movie with a good soundtrack, but I
never liked the message that the girls had to change to attract the
guys. It's a bad message to give young girls that continues on today.
As Freeman notes, ".... in the vast majority of eighties teen films,
girls are celebrated for
being their own gauche, unique selves, and this is a common theme in
almost all eighties teen movies for all teenagers..." which is a much
better message than you have to change to get the guy.
The Princess Bride is a good movie and it stands to test of time (with
the exception of the video game in the beginning). I agreed with Freeman
that it is funny, exciting, scary, silly, and sweet with a plot for
kids and dialogue for adults. "But the
reason it has endured is that it is such a warm film, one without
cynicism or calculation, and a film as lovely as this one could only
have been born out of love itself - all kinds of love."
John Hughes films are an eighties staple and that he "made the 1980s the
golden age of
teen films because he realized that the trick to making good films about
teenagers was to take them as seriously as they take themselves." "Teen
films were about deep emotions, and deep emotions were reserved for his
teenage characters alone." Teens always think their emotions are more
real than anything anyone else has ever experienced, and Hughes managed
to capture this. Plus, in Pretty in Pink, Andie learns never to change
herself for anyone. (I was on team Duckie though, and thought Blane was a
jerk, pretty, but still a jerk. It was interesting that in
the original ending of the film Andie does end up with Duckie.)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, another Hughes film, is still a movie adored
by plenty of people. It makes sense that it represents an exaggerated
fantasy about what their teenage years should have been like. It
"presents a nerd’s idealized view of teenage
life: sanitized, safe, and sweet, in which you are universally adored
for being your own weird self and can do whatever you damn well want."
Freeman loves another classic 80's movie, Ghostbusters, more than I do; I
will concede it was
entertaining but I didn't feel that it depicted how a man should be as
Freeman does. (Okay, I laughed about that point.)
I still love Steel Magnolias. It is a wonderful women's movie with a
strong and talented female cast. I also agree with Freeman that it's a
movie that likely wouldn't be made today, with women existing as humans
in their own right, strong and independent, and not as an accessory or
idealized or fighting over a man. This is a movie with so many great
quotes it's the one I would pick for that right. (“I’m not crazy, M’Lynn - I’ve just been in a very bad mood for forty years.”) Freeman also gives a nod to Terms of Endearment (1983) and Beaches (1988).
Finally, it was interesting that in Back to the Future, "Marty takes the
role of what’s known in story theory as 'the mysterious stranger.' He
comes out of nowhere and helps the characters sort out their lives. It’s
a construct that’s been used in countless westerns." Additionally it
proved that it was alright to include parents as part of the story.
My advanced reading copy was courtesy
of the publisher for review