Monday, September 05, 2005

Jake Agonistes

Sat in with my teenage daughter last week to watch a bit of Sixteen Candles, the 1984 John Hughes "classic" teen pic starring Molly Ringwald and Anthony Michael Hall.

Notable for its time-capsule 80's fashions and soundtrack, the movie features a wide range of Hollywood career paths: long and notable (John Cusack, [arguably] Joan Cusack); short and notable (Molly, Anthony Michael, Gedde Watanabe, Justin Henry, Jamie Gertz); long and mostly not notable (Brian Doyle-Murray, Paul Dooley, Edward Andrews, Max Showalter); and short and not notable in the least (Darren Harris [Cliff, the "other" geek], Haviland Morris [Jake's hideous girlfriend]).

The paradigmatic resident of that last bin is, of course, Michael Schoeffling (i.e., Jake Ryan himself), and while I'm sure that Michael Schoeffling's real-life fate is interesting in itself, you have got to ask yourself this question.

"What the hell is the deal with Jake?"

Has there ever been a movie character with less personality, less interest in his surroundings, less ... consciousness ... than Jake Ryan?

While on a certain level Jake is, by necessity, little more than a stereotypical mimbo, if you examine him as an actual human being he's quite a mess.

For a start, he develops a crush on sophomore Sam as they sit in class together and he intercepts a note. Why is he in a class with a bunch of sophomores? Shouldn't he be in some college prep class somewhere?

So he develops a crush on the sophomore. Weird, yes, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. After tracking her down in the yearbook he decides to give her house a call. At midnight. What kind of idiot does this?

Meanwhile, of course, his parents' mansion is being systematically destroyed by a bunch of rampaging Visigoths disguised as his New Trier classmates. He wanders through the house in a daze, oblivious to the destruction being perpetrated on the Ryan's formerly nice Highland Park house. In what world would this happen? Did he not have one friend capable of putting a stop to the mayhem? Or at least slap Jake out of his stupor and implore him to stop the mayhem himself?

In the end, Jake returns downstairs to find his house a toxic waste dump. You name it, his "pals" have destroyed it. Jake's reaction? "What a mess," he deadpans. Dude, a 50-pound weight has busted through two floors and taken out your parents wine collection, and that's the best you can come up with?

His thirst for warm Old Style eventually leads him to uncover Farmer Ted, the freshman geek who proceeds to mix martinis and counsel the clueless Jake in the ways of life and love. In return, Jake impassively implores the 14-year-old to drive his father's Rolls-Royce away and bone his awful girlfriend in it. Leaving aside the invite to nail his girlfriend -- his father's Rolls? What, destroying the wine cellar wasn't enough? Let's take the Rolls out as well?

In the end, of course, Sam gets her clueless, lifeless, cradle-robbing, soon-to-be-jailed-at-the-behest-of-his-parents boyfriend. They share a belated birthday cake while sitting on the dining room table (presumably since the chairs had long since been burned for kindling by the horde).

She whispers that she can't make a wish because it has already come true. It's my guess that her wish for conjugal sex with an inmate will also soon come true, as she visits her man at the Audy Home.


At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you seriously just analyze 16 candles?? Who does that??? Get a life man!!!!


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