Synopsis: How did John Hughes capture the growing pains of adolescence so perfectly? Why do his films resonate with those that grew up with them, and those that have just discovered them? Why did he leave? Armed with those and many other questions, a documentary was put into production. It wasn’t long before interviews with Hughes alumni (Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Andrew McCartney) and those influenced by Hughes (Kevin Smith, Jason Reitman) transpired, shedding light on Hughes and his work. However, after 2 years of compiling hundreds of interviews there was still a very important one missing: John Hughes. Don’t You Forget About Me cuts insightful and entertaining interviews with the honest, humorous, and tension filled road trip the neophyte filmmakers make to Chicago hoping to secure an interview with the reclusive director and closure for themselves.
I’m not the world’s biggest John Hughes fan, but a fan I am. While I only explored his works many years after the fact, well beyond my teens, they still found a way to touch me, to reach me in a way that many teen flicks simply don’t. And I’m proud to say that I have his key films in my collection (although, really, that isn’t saying much )
Everyone has their favourite John Hughes film, and I’m no different. But, looking at his works, I’m amazed to see just how many films he’s had a hand in. And the impression I get is that most of us only want to remember a few significant years of his career, those that affected us the most, that connected with us at a time when we needed to hear that we were not alone in feeling the way that we did.
Because, the reality is that, after a few very prolific and successful years, Hughes did move on to other projects – many of which were far less successful. Or notable. Does anyone care to recollect ‘Just Visiting’, ‘Flubber’ or ‘Curly Sue’? Has anyone even heard of ‘Reach the Rock’ or ‘Nate and Hayes’? And did you know that he actually wrote the scripts for ‘Baby’s Day Out’ and came up with the stories for ‘Maid in Manhattan’ and ‘Drillbit Taylor’? No joke! Look it up.
I believe that the filmmakers behind ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ have done exactly that. These young adults from Canada consistently praise John Hughes’ influence and the impact he had on their lives, but they always seem to revolve around the same era: 1984-86, during which ‘Sixteen Candles’, ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘European Vacation’, ‘Weird Science’, ‘Pretty in Pink’ and ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ came out. Everything before and after is largely absent from their documentary.
Nevertheless, irrespective of the scope of their adulation, these people decided to make a film on John Hughes, eventually choosing to focus on his disappearance from Hollywood (in his later years, he mostly chose to write under the nom-de-plume Edmond Dantes). But, instead of trying to find him through regular channels, like his agent or other industry people, they took it upon themselves to jump into a van and try to find him themselves – in the one town that they imagined he would be in. And they only allowed for one day to do this.
It felt disorganized, a little too random for my taste, given that this is supposed to be a professional film project. I watched the result with some incredulity: these people supposedly spent two and half years working on their doc, and yet the best plan that they could come up with was to randomly show up in what they assumed is Hughes’ base of operations with no game plan and no strategy? What was going through their heads? Think about it: even if they had found his actual location, on the one day that they had to do it, who says that Hughes would even be home? Nuh…
But, since the final film was cleared by all the parties involved, including all the movie footage from John Hughes’ films (and so forth), it must have happened as they claim. However, a part of me can’t help but wonder if the home they went to really was Hughes’ and if they did in fact receive a response from Hughes later on. Because, quite frankly, there is nothing in ‘DYFAM’ that proves anything: at a distance, we see the group go to some home and “talk” to a maid, and later we see them open an envelope with Hughes’ “response” in it. That’s it. We don’t even see the content of the envelope. You might as well show me picture of Nelly while you’re at it.
Truth be told, it’s neither a documentary about their hero nor a true document of their efforts, seeing as it revolves around that one trip, with virtually nothing being said about the previous two and half years that they invested prior to this adventure aside from a quick mention. As a project, not only does it fail to meet its original objective, but it also fails to deliver a full account of the process – something which would have filled the gap to great effect. Instead we are left we with all too many “what ifs”.
Truly, the best part of ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ are the interviews with the cast and crew who knew John Hughes, as well as some of the people he’s influenced. Not everyone is involved, but Kelly LeBrock, Andrew McCarthy, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Judd Nelson, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, and Ally Sheedy are interviewed at some length. This is worth the price of admission alone, but there are many other people worth hearing, including Roger Ebert, Jason Reitman and Kevin Smith. And that’s the key reason why I’m rating this film as high as I do; this was a treat.
Otherwise, there’s not much here. In my mind, the actual adventure that these filmmakers supposed went on was slightly vapid and ill-conceived; it’s not of much interest and is more filler than filling. Still, the end result is engaging enough to warrant a viewing. Or two, for fans of Hughes. Or three, for die-hard fans. After all, there are plenty of noteworthy commentaries, testimonials and tributes along the way. But I think that this would be best suited as a special feature in a John Hughes boxed set than as a feature of its own.