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80’s Movies: A Love Affair (and Quasi Book Review)

While browsing through a quaint bookshop last week, drawing my hand across stacked paperbacks on a table, I touched down on Hadley Freeman’s Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies (And Why We Don’t Learn Them Anymore). I picked it up for a perfunctory flip-through and knew instantly it would be coming home with me.

If you, like me, were a movie-loving teen in the eighties you were lucky! Many now classic films were released, many of them with teenagers as the lead characters. This is when my love affair with the cinema blossomed and I came to know the power of film to connect us, enlighten us and make us feel less alone in the World.

In Life Moves Pretty Fast, journalist Hadley Freeman uses interviews and commentary by writers, directors and actors along with her own personal insights to explore the lessons of these films.  She discusses them with reverie, she is a BIG fan, but she also puts them in a social and cultural context that absolutely lit me up. Several times I had to slap the book down and say to myself: I never thought about it like that!

For example, the first chapter is about Dirty Dancing. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times and consider its main characters Baby (Jennifer Grey) and Johnny (Patrick Swayze) personal friends. But I never saw it as having a uniquely feminist point of view. Here Freeman quotes screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein:

“…I wanted to make a movie about what it is like, as a young woman, moving into the physical World, which means the sexual World,” says Bergstein. “So you get those shots of Jennifer looking up with her big eyes and then about a hundred shots of Patrick. I remember when we were in the editing suite and people were saying, ‘Why do you have all these shots of Patrick?’ I’d say, ‘It’s because that’s what she sees.’ The film is through the female gaze and most movies are not.” Read more