Celebrating John Hughes’ Sixteen Candles

Carley's celebration of the work of John Hughes, as she zaps back to 1984, and Sixteen Candles...

Sixteen Candles

1984 was the year Torvill and Dean won the Gold medal, the GCSE was introduced and John Hughes wrote and directed his first film Sixteen Candles.

Starring Molly Ringwald in her first leading role, Sixteen Candles tells the story of Sam Baker, just an average teenage girl who happens to be turning sixteen, an event which, to her horror, everybody seems to have forgotten.

The day of Sam’s birthday falls the day before her demanding and slightly drugged up older sister Ginny is due to be married. With the entire house in wedding chaos, Sam goes unnoticed and heads off to school.

During homeroom she completes a sex quiz that her best friend has given her; unbeknownst to Sam she drops it on the floor right in front of her crush, Jake Ryan, who reads it to discover that she is a virgin saving herself for him.

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When Sam arrives home both sets of grandparents have arrived for the wedding, forcing Sam to give up her bedroom. To add insult to injury, she is forced to take her grandparent’s foreign exchange student, Long Duk Dong, to her high school dance, where, to Sam’s horror, he finds himself a girlfriend in a few hours.

At the dance Sam is confronted by The Geek (Anthony Michael Hall), who is totally obsessed with her and wants to get her into bed. So confident that he is a hit with the ladies, he wages a bet with his two best friends (check out a very young John Cusack) that he can get a pair of Sam’s underpants.

After unsuccessfully trying to woo Sam, The Geek finally admits his bet to her and also that he knows that Jake is interested in her as he had been asking about her earlier in the evening. In her excitement at this news, Sam agrees to loan her underwear to The Geek so he can claim his prize (and also charge the rest of the freshmen a $1 each to view them).

After seeing Jake leave with his girlfriend, Sam returns home disheartened and has a heart to heart with her father (the fantastic Paul Dooley) who has finally remembered her birthday. Across town, The Geek and his pals have crashed the after dance party at Jake’s house. At the end of the night Jake finds The Geek trapped under the coffee table, after he annoys some jocks by destroying their beer can pyramid.

After rescuing him, The Geek tells Jake exactly how Sam feels about him. In return, Jake lets The Geek take his prom queen girlfriend home in his dad’s Rolls Royce.

Ginny’s wedding is a disaster after she takes too many muscle relaxants and as Sam leaves the church Jake is waiting outside for her. The movie ends with Jake and Sam kissing over a birthday cake which has sixteen candles on it.

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Sixteen Candles is very much a film of its time and that is based mostly on its use of characterisation, which really reminds me of the National Lampoon movies. You have the crazy foreign exchange student who speaks terrible English, the annoying older sister who is about to marry an Italian ‘greaseball’, an annoying younger brother and the spectrum of high school classes: geeks, jocks and prom queens (hang on didn’t that get made into a movie later?!?)

However, Sixteen Candles is a very entertaining movie, it isn’t too slushy and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments. It made stars out of Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall and really was the first of the ‘Brat Pack’ movies. This isn’t the best of Hughes, but it is a great starting point.