When I was a teenager I happened to discover Molly Ringwald and her triad of John Hughes goodness: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Pretty in Pink. Even though I came of age in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was drawn to these 1980s films with a fervor that I can’t quite describe. I didn’t just like them: I loved them. In fact, until I was introduced to Penny Lane in Almost Famous, I felt like I was Andie Walsh and Andie Walsh was me (except, of course, I would have totally picked Duckie).
I remember my mother walking by while I was in one of those fantastic spells in which you watch seven or eight hours of movies just because it helps life make sense (you guys did that, right?). Sometimes she’d stop and watch, and other times she’d make some kind of offhand remark. Since many a teen experiences some pretty tumultuous emotions, it might serve your relationship well to sit down and engage in some of these movies with your kid — if she or he will have you.
Even though I spent a good bit of my time pretending I lived in the ’80s and listened to punk music, I spent most of my reality living in the ’90s and listening to singer-songwriters and what would grow to become known as modern-day folk rock. When I met my best friend at fifteen, she introduced me to a couple of movies from our era that would prove to be just as good, if not better, than my Ringwald delights. These movies were the BEST when it came to making me feel like the characters just totally got me and that each movie just had to be about me and my situation, and ISN’T IT JUST SO HARD TO BE (your situation) AND IN YOUR TEENS. Because… isn’t it?!
Here are a few that you might want to watch and share with your teenaged offspring. The films could be great starting-off points for discussions about sex, drugs, love, and everything else you want to know about your teen’s life without being shady and snooping.
For the “Oh shit, I’m going to graduate school soon and I have no clue what I’ll do with my LIFE” crowd
It may be about a group of recent college graduates, but many an almost-eighteen-year-old can relate to the gem that is Reality Bites. It stars Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke as Lelaina, a would-be videographer, and Troy, a often jobless musician, respectively. These two spend most of their time pretending they aren’t actually in love with each other, even though it’s painfully obvious that they are. I mean, Janeane Garofalo and Steve Zahn are amazing as their friends (Vickie and Sammy), but when you’re sixteen and so sure you’re in love and it sucks, nothing beats Troy and Lelaina. Lelaina is spending her time shooting a mockumentary about the foursome and their post-collegiate struggles. Troy’s not working, Vickie manages at The Gap, and Sammy’s figuring out how he defines his sexuality. There’s a lot going on here that could be appealing to your kid, and plenty worth talking about.
Talking about drugs and sex
The film Kids is definitely more drama than comedy — it was initially slapped with a NC-17 rating, and this was in 1995. Let’s just say: it gets raw.
Kids, which was written by an eighteen-year-old, follows a group of sexually-active, drug-abusing, teenaged friends. At the time, many argued that the graphic depictions of violence, drug use and dealing, date rape, AIDS and sex aren’t realistic, but for a lot of people, they are. The cast is made up entirely of then-unknown (Rosario Dawson and Chloë Sevigny) actual teenagers — instead of someone in their early twenties playing a teen. This makes the movie even better — everything feels real. The actions of the characters in the movie are basically the stuff of many a parent’s worst nightmare, but the movie could also serve as a seriously valuable education tool if shown in the right way.
The movie to pull out when love sucks
Ok, I can’t believe I’m going to go here today, because this movie is just HUGE in my world, but you guys: if your teen is nursing a seriously broken heart, get Before Sunrise by any means necessary (it’s on Netflix if you’re a customer!). Curl up on the couch, get under a blanket, pop some popcorn, and do what you need to do, because this won’t be a film you turn off midway through to finish tomorrow.
Ethan Hawke (what? Again? Yep. My friend had a thing for him) plays Jesse, a young American traveling in Europe when he meets Julie Delphy’s French character Celine. The two hesitatingly get to know each other on a train, and end up spending one night walking the streets together in Vienna. Just so you know: that’s the whole movie — these two talking and walking, walking and talking, stopping to do a few other things, and walking and talking some more. It’s 105 minutes of some of the most perfect cinema I’ve ever seen, and the 2004 follow-up (aptly titled Before Sunset) is just as good.
Alright: I know a whole lotta you guys are in your mid-20s to mid-30s: let’s get it going. What’s your favorite ’90s dramedy you can’t wait to share with your teen-aged offspring? If you’ve already got teens: do you bond through films, or another kind of media?