Samantha’s (Molly Ringwald) life is pretty awkward at the moment. Her sister is getting married which has thrown her entire family into confusion. So much so, that it appears that they forgot Samantha’s sixteenth birthday. But that’s only a small part of Sam’s problems. She’s also in love with Jake (Michael Schoeffling) who has a gorgeous girlfriend (with actual boobs) and barely knows Sam exists. Or so she thinks. The only guy who is actually hitting on her is a major geek (Anthony Michael Hall). And there is a school dance that very night.
Sixteen Candles is sweet and fun and despite the fact that it is obviously a product of its time, it’s a somehow refreshing film. But it’s not great.
There are many things I liked about the film. I liked that it didn’t need some kind of charade on Sam’s part to make Jake fall for her – they both just needed a bit of nudging to talk to each other. That it’s that kind of love story – without added drama or grand showdowns (though with enough emotional pay-off) is probably also what makes the movie feel so fresh. (Young and adorable John and Joan Cusack might have contributed to that as well.)
I also really loved that her parents forgetting Sam’s birthday wasn’t just her panicked imagination. In most other films we would get a surprise party and the parents having just pretended to forget and it would completely invalidate the experience Sam went through and with her, the audience. I’d much rather have her parents actually forget and them dealing with the consequences of that. (Particularly because there is a cultural narrative that teenagers and women regularly exagerate their experiences – and female teenagers most of all. And Sam might not have the most mature reaction, but it is completely valid.)
But there are also things that I didn’t care for as much. Most notably that was the Geek. I just couldn’t get into him as a character and I caught myself several times drifting off while the movie was centered on him. I would have rather spent more of that time with Sam.
Generally I think that my expectations might have been a little too high because I basically only heard people sing John Hughes’ praises (and I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a Hughes film apart from when I was a child). The film isn’t bad, not at all, but it also isn’t quite the revelation I expected.