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Don’t You Forget About Me (2009)

by on 2012/09/25

“I so desperately hate to end these movies that the first thing I do when I’m done is write another one. Then I don’t feel sad about having to leave and everybody going away.”

 – John Hughes (1950 – 2009)

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Four young go-getters from Toronto want to make a film “like John Hughes”. Realizing they can’t live up to the legend, they contemplate instead making a movie about the production itself. Which inevitably leads them to producing this documentary.

So, naturally, they set out for Toronto’s “sister city” Chicago, in search of him.

Hughes is, of course, the auteur responsible for numerous popular — often teen-focused — touchstones. Standout titles include The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles and, to some extent, Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Weird Science. Unevenly received in their own time, they’ve since benefited from a critical reappraisal.

Like the difficult offspring of Depeche Mode’s 101 and Bring Back The A-Team, these “shoot first” entrepreneurs travel to America, touring notable landmarks, quizzing passers-by, and investigating their target’s whereabouts. They plan to ambush him at his home, armed only with gumption, a single female emissary, a written plea, and an early cut of this documentary.

Intercutting the journey, we’re shown a number of earlier interviews, conducted in the two and half years leading up to their present. Over stills and varied footage, we see and hear from dozens of speakers: cast and crew members, the documentarians themselves, critics, filmmakers, and kids who weren’t even born when these features were released.

All of them have opinions — though none disparaging, apparently — and speculate on aspects of his works: production details, personal connections, the evolution of “his” genre, and why teens continue to relate to his legacy, despite a bygone era’s expressions, fashions, and music.

The highlight comes near the end, a collection of messages for John, from virtually all of the speakers to that point.

Those speakers include those who have worked with him (Alan Ruck, Ally Sheedy, Andrew McCarthy, Annie Potts, Gedde Watanabe, Howard Deutch, Ilan Mitchel-Smith, Jim Kerr (of Simple Minds), John Kapelos, Judd Nelson, Justin Henry, Kelly LeBrock, Mia Sara, and Scott Coffey), modern filmmakers (Allan Moyle, Chris Wyatt, Jason Reitman, Kevin Smith, and Sean Covel), and critics (Bill Chambers, Roger Ebert, and Richard Roeper).

But while you won’t find Anthony Michael Hall, Matthew Broderick, or Molly Ringwald, you do see a lot of footage from their films, helping to bolster credibility. Oddly, the clips from Ferris Bueller are stretched from widescreen to full frame. These were the only issues which caught my eye.

The issues which caught my mind are more severe. I sorely missed some biographical context. What do we really know about this man from his rare interviews and sole video commentary? Bits and pieces come here and there, but we don’t get much sense of him. Rather than bemoaning what’s missing, however, allow me to critique what’s there.

The (ahem) protagonists, to put it lightly, are distracting. There’s one affecting moment, where they share stories in a field, like a microcosm of The Breakfast Club itself. Unfortunately, otherwise they’re disorganized to a fault, joking around to the point of obscuring dialogue, “too many cooks” debating tactics from beginning to the end. With all their incessant bickering, I had this pair of thoughts: “How did they go the distance together?” and “It’s a miracle this got made.”

So even if Don’t You Forget About Me never realizes its full potential, then at least there’s still a great deal to love here for fans of its subject. The filmmakers’ intentions, like their idol’s, were generally for the best. And if anyone could help to unite such a fragmentary group, little surprise that it should be John Hughes.

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Rated 14A

73 minutes

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  1. R.I.P. Roger Ebert (1942 – 2013) | Geek vs Goth

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