Sixteen Candles
directed by John Hughes
(Universal, 1984)

For many of us who came of age in the glorious 1980s, especially geeky folks like myself, Molly Ringwald is an important part of our experience and memories. Pretty but not glamorous, Molly served as a beacon of sorts for me.

Sixteen Candles is the first of a string of films in which Molly dramatized the teen angst so many of us felt. This is basically the story of Samantha (Molly), who must deal with the fact that her family forgets her 16th birthday while she is also suffering from the bad effects of a crush on a boy who seemingly doesn't know she exists.

I love to rewatch Molly's movies every so often in order to capture some of those feelings of lovelorn giddiness that seemed to disappear in my 20s. This movie is very funny and does succeed in conveying the feelings of a confused teenager, yet it seems overblown in some places. For example, the whole Asian foreign exchange student character is far from needed, the degree to which teenaged partygoers wreck the host's home is extreme, the dental headpiece worn by a young Joan Cusack serves no purpose, and the farcical wedding of Samanth'a sister is pretty silly. I should say that Anthony Michael Hall as "the geek" is superb and almost steals the whole show, but for me this movie is all about Molly.

Where this movie excels is in its portrayal of teenaged emotions and teenager-parent relations. The very notion that your parents might forget your sweet 16th birthday is downright traumatic. The scene between Samantha and her father late that night struck me as classic. Even though the father gets his daughter to open up to him, he does not understand what she is talking about when it should be obvious to anyone; his cliche responses to the real problem are typically useless parental words of support. Segments of the movie such as this are very real and connect on a personal level with the viewer.

I would like to have seen more of this type of interaction, but the farcical elements of the movie dominate the screen and, in my opinion, make it less successful than it should have been. As for the music, the rescoring of the motion picture does have a negative impact on the viewing experience; there are still some cool '80s songs that bring back memories, but the new music pasted into the film is often too loud, inappropriate and just plain wrong, especially for those of us who have watched this movie a number of times and plan to watch it again and again as we get older. All in all, though, this is a fun movie and a great way to rekindle your memories of young adulthood. I'm not sure that the present generation of young men and women will connect as strongly to this movie or to Molly Ringwald as I did, but I am sure they can at least get some great entertainment value out of it.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 21 May 2005

Buy it from