Sunday, June 12, 2016

Life Moves Pretty Fast

Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman
Simon & Schuster: 6/14/16
eBook review copy; 352 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501130458

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), Pretty 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. 

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.


raidergirl3 said...

But Danny changed for Sandy too at the end of Grease. I saw it more of a Gift of the Magi.
The book looks very interesting. I was 13-22 during the 80s- it's my era!

Lori L said...

I was 20/21 in 1980, so I was already in college when Grease came out in 1978. While I enjoyed it, I was never a huge fan for the reason stated above. There certainly were many 80's movies made that I would still watch again and again today, with Steel Magnolias near/at the top of that list.