JAN / FEB 2017: BY RACHEL SEXTON
Sidekicks as a type of character prove to be very interesting. They are not the lead character of a story but they can often be so entertaining that the audience comes to care about them just as much or maybe even more than the main character. Many times, the comedy in a story can come from the hero or heroine’s best friend, and this can result in some of the viewer’s favorite moments. The same can be said of the actors who play these characters. Lead actors may get more attention but the appeal of a supporting performer cannot be underestimated. Pretty in Pink provides a sidekick like this in the teen genre. Duckie in Pretty in Pink becomes a classic secondary character through the use of style and humor.
Throughout the mid and late 1980’s, a critically and commercially solid string of teen-focused films either written or directed by John Hughes (usually both). These movies were in different ways timeless and of their specific time. By 1986, Hughes was successful enough to direct one teen comedy (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) while he handed the reins of the other one he had written that year over to Howard Deutch. Pretty in Pink stars Molly Ringwald as Andie, a budding high school fashion designer with a single father who doesn’t bring in a lot of money. She has a part-time job where she is best friends with her boss, and she has a lifelong friend who has always been in love with her, Duckie (Jon Cryer). Drama ensues when a wealthy guy at school, played by Andrew McCarthy, shows interest in Andie and their various friends make the situation more difficult. This is especially true of Duckie and his broken heart.
Duckie actually has a real name, and it’s Phil, but his nickname is an essential part of who he is. His relationship with Andie is as well. They have clearly known each other for their entire lives, and even though Andie seems to know how Duckie feels about her and obviously cares about him deeply, she never leads him on in any way. She is honest with him, and she tries to be sympathetic and explain her feelings when Duckie realizes she is going out on a date with McCarthy’s Blane. He is too upset to be gracious, however, and he even becomes part of the reason Andie feels like she should cut the date short after Duckie is rude to she and Blane at a club. Genuine affection triumphs in the end, though, when Duckie ends up standing by Andie and she turns out to be happy with Blane.
One aspect of Duckie that stands out is his sense of style. Though his connection to clothing is not overt in any way like Andie’s is, it is something that deepens the relationship between the two of them. Duckie dresses in a way that is memorable and could probably be described as what we would now think of as hipser but filtered through an 80’s-punk type of feel. He sometimes wears sunglasses inside, he sports a lot of rings, and he is almost always wearing a bolero tie. Even with his prom ensemble at the end of the film. Duckie also points out his shoes in this scene as proof that he is still Duckie despite being dressed up.
By far, however, the most appealing thing about Duckie is his humor. Cryer’s performance is the main source of comedy in this movie. In his hands, Duckie is usually sweet and always funny. The scene which probably stands out the most is the lip-sync and dance Duckie does to Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness” in the record store where Andie works. It was choreographed on the spot by Cryer and is beyond entertaining. Another moment that is hilarious is when bullies toss Duckie into the girl’s restroom and he evinces mock outrage as he launches a comparison of it to the boy’s room, saying “Hey, we don’t got none of this! I want the principal here right now!” It feels like something Cryer improvised, as a lot of the best comedy in films is right now. Duckie definitely exemplifies the trademark of sidekicks being funny.
The style and especially the humor of Duckie in Pretty in Pink distinguishes him as a supporting character audiences can treasure. Laughs coming from a sidekick are nothing new but that doesn’t diminish the entertainment value of these characters, and if the movigoer prefers them to the lead, that is not much of a surprise. The viewer may even think, “Why doesn’t he get the girl?” Duckie may not get the girl but the last time the audience sees him, Andie has just run off after Blane at the prom and another girl gets Duckie’s attention and beckons him over. He gives a look to the camera and then walks off to her. Duckie definitely makes it cool to be a sidekick.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Sexton is from Ohio. She loves her parents and her dog Lily. She has to have acting, film, reading, and dance in her life. Her hobby is editing fan videos.