Weird Science (1985)
★★★ / ★★★★
Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) have absolutely no luck with the girls. A mixture of dweeb, wrongly-timed elevator eyes, and mouth-breathing make the girls look at them like they were from outer space. Gregarious guys like Ian (Robert Downey Jr.) and Max (Robert Rusler), on the other hand, cannot help but thrust the duo into more embarrassing situations. While watching “Frankenstein” during a sleepover, Gary has an idea: They will create the perfect woman to help them win over girls. Wyatt, adept at computers, agrees. By feeding the computer a series of magazine cutouts and information from the web, Lisa (Kelly LeBrock) is created.
Written and directed by John Hughes, although the basic premise of “Weird Science” is hackneyed–guys so willing to be in the company of the opposite sex that they will do almost anything to be in the “in” crowd–it manages to be quite interesting because it is not afraid to take risks. A bit of science fiction, like transforming a mean character into a Jubba the Hut look-alike and mutilated biker gang members, go a long way. Instead of allowing the film to be mired into a quicksand of typicalities, the oddities help to keep it afloat. It even reaches some creative highs at times.
Every other scene is hyperbolic and partnered with cheesy visual effects. However, its core, the need to belong and be accepted, is real. Wyatt and Gary are smart but they lack the confidence and self-esteem to go up to a girl and make conversation without coming off like a nervous wreck. The material is in touch with how it is like to be young and unsure.
Hall and Mitchell-Smith have a wonderful, sometimes homoerotic, brotherly chemistry. Their characters complement each other: Gary is more daring and goofy while Wyatt is more sensitive and reticent. While we expect Hall to be an excellent awkward geek–and he is–Mitchell-Smith is quite a nice surprise. He is able to bounce off Hall’s manic energy without having to depend on too many physical gags to get our attention.
I wished that Wyatt had more sensitive scenes with his older brother, Chet (Bill Paxton), currently on leave from the military. Chet tortures his brother endlessly for no reason and they eventually become exasperating. It is like hammering us over the head with the fact that Wyatt is unable to stand up for himself. We already aware of this fact from with the way he deals with bullies at school. The weakest aspect of the film is the lack of spark and originality in terms of Wyatt and Chet being brothers. It is unfortunate because Mitchell-Smith can simply stand on one spot and look solemn yet we cannot help but wonder what his character is thinking.
As for Lisa, she is beautiful and it is understandable why men and women are drawn to her. She is cheeky without being too robotic. The funniest scene is when she asks a cashier, approximately in her 70s, if she thinks wearing a black thong can help seduce a fifteen-year-old. The grandmother stares wide-eyed and unable to respond.
“Weird Science” is purposefully immature at times, with phallic symbols abound, but funkiness and sweetness permeate throughout.
Breakfast Club, The (1985)
★★★ / ★★★★
Five high school students who personify a geek (Anthony Michael Hall), a princess (Molly Ringwald), a jock (Emilio Estevez), a basket case (Ally Sheedy) and a criminal (Judd Nelson) spent a Saturday in detention under the eyes of a begrudged principal (Paul Gleason). The picture’s argument was the fact that although we label ourselves (or others label us) to be in a specific category in the high school social strata, we can relate with each of the five characters because we share one commonality: in high school, all of us are just hoping to get by and waiting for our lives to actually begin. The film was astute in observing the teenagers while they interacted with each other and when they were on their own. Even if the characters were not saying anything or if they were just on the background, I was able to read them and I thought of things that they might have been thinking at the time. Having been released in era where typical teen flicks were abound, “The Breakfast Club” almost immediately gained a cult following because of its honesty, right amount of cheesiness, and cathartic quality. My favorite scene was toward the end when the five were in a circle and decided to share why they were sent to detention. I liked the fact that it wasn’t a typical “sharing time” where everybody was solemn and serious all the time. They were actually able to make jokes toward and around each other in between discussing their issues. It made me think of me and my friends when would do the same thing. Out of the five, I could relate to Hall’s character the most (and a bit of Ringwald’s because of her slight conceitedness). It made me think of the way I was in high school concerning my penchant (or perhaps even obsession) for getting straight A’s. It got to the point where getting straight A’s was something that I expected of myself instead of something that I had to strive for. I remember being so hard on myself for making small mistakes when, looking back on it, I didn’t really need to. Now that I’m older, I just think of grades as letters on a piece of paper and nothing more. They don’t define us and they certainly don’t dictate what we can offer the world. The difference between me and Hall’s character was my parents did not pressure me into getting the perfect grade point average. However, I can just imagine how it must have been like for other students who were not so lucky–those that jumped off buildings in college because they felt a need to have the “perfect academic record” to have a “secure future.” Written and directed by the legendary John Hughes, I thought he did a wonderful job capturing the essence of teenagers despite their place in the high school hierarchy.