This Generation’s Citizen Kane

Sometime — probably in the very near future — someone will make a biopic of John Hughes’ life. Done correctly, it could win an Academy Award — even if only because A.O. Scott is the right age for it.

When they get around to writing it, the screenwriter will use Molly Ringwald’s op-ed as a starting point:

None of the films that he made subsequently [“Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club”] had the same kind of personal feeling to me. They were funny, yes, wildly successful, to be sure, but I recognized very little of the John I knew in them, of his youthful, urgent, unmistakable vulnerability. It was like his heart had closed, or at least was no longer open for public view. A darker spin can be gleaned from the words John put into the mouth of Allison in “The Breakfast Club”: “When you grow up … your heart dies.”

I’m speaking metaphorically, of course. Though it does seem sadly poignant that physically, at least, John’s heart really did die. It also seems undeniably meaningful: His was a heavy heart, deeply sensitive, prone to injury — easily broken.

Most people who knew John knew that he was able to hold a grudge longer than anyone — his grudges were almost supernatural things, enduring for years, even decades. Michael suspects that he was never forgiven for turning down parts in “Pretty in Pink” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” I turned down later films as well. Not because I didn’t want to work with John anymore — I loved working with him, more than anyone before or since.

. . .

Eventually, though, I felt that I needed to work with other people as well. I wanted to grow up, something I felt (rightly or wrongly) I couldn’t do while working with John. Sometimes I wonder if that was what he found so unforgivable. We were like the Darling children when they made the decision to leave Neverland. And John was Peter Pan, warning us that if we left we could never come back. And, true to his word, not only were we unable to return, but he went one step further. He did away with Neverland itself.

Salient detail: Ringwald adds that Hughes made “mixed tapes” for the cast . . . the visual of John Hughes hovering over a stereo and affixing a label to a blank cassette tape just about breaks my heart; I say that scene either goes in the first ten minutes (to convey his “eagerness”) or in the last ten minutes (to express something “yearning” about his persona) — take your pick.

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