RIP John Hughes 1950-2009
One of the foremost comedy writer/directors of the last 25 years has died. John Hughes, creator of such teen comedies as Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and his opus, the terrific The Breakfast Club died of a heart attack at the age of 59. He almost single-handedly defined the concept of “teen comedy” as we know it today. He wrote and directed with an ear towards teenage dialogue like no one else. Despite the cheesiness of such fare as Weird Science (I still like it despite, perhaps because of that), many of his films hold up as comedy classics. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is a comedy masterpiece that launched the career of Matthew Broderick, and remains a staple of 1980’s comedy.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles ranks as some of the best work John Candy and Steve Martin ever did on the big screen. There was a sensitivity to Candy’s performance that I do not think any other writer/director was ever been able to capture. Candy also shone in Uncle Buck, written and directed by Hughes. John Hughes had a unique way of having us rooting for the obnoxious protagonist throughout Buck. He did it by exposing the man’s naked humanity, warts and all. This was a theme that ran through all of his best films. For example, when the character of Cameron Frye kicks his father’s prized muscle car in Ferris Bueller as a way of venting his own frustrations towards his father, the effect is wrenching. The “confession” scene at the end of The Breakfast Club is a masterpiece of ensemble acting, propelled by Hughes’ excellent direction and script. Having Emilio Estevez deliver his emotional soliloquy in one virtually unbroken take was a terrific decision on Hughes’ part. It’s a choice that gives the scene a theatrical flavour.
He wrote several great films that he did not direct. Highlights included the underrated Career Opportunities and Some Kind of Wonderful. While not as financially successful and famous as the three Home Alone films he penned, these films are some of the highlights of his career. Writer/Directors like Wes Anderson, Kevin Smith, and Judd Apatow owe much to Hughes, both stylistically and in content. Apatow stated today in a statement: “I feel like a part of my childhood has died. Nobody made me laugh harder or more often than John Hughes.”
I am going to go pay tribute to him by popping in The Breakfast Club. What a shame. Hughes leaves behind an impressive body of work that we can continue to appreciate for years.