My favourite career moment of all time will always be standing in a ramshackle catering lift in the back of a Manhatten warehouse, publicist clipboard and headpiece in place – Michael J Fox to my right, Robert Zemeckis to my left, Lea Thompson up in front, The Power of Love was blasting through the sound system. We were building up to their big stage entrance for the Back to the Future 25th Anniversary event and I momentarily morphed into my 13 year old self. It was the one and only time I’ve been star struck on the job and I could tell I wasn’t the only one.
Five years on and now celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Back to the Future and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a brilliant book about 80’s Hollywood has been released. You can tell that Life Moves Pretty Fast was a labour of love for Guardian columist Hadley Freeman who, like me, spent the vast proportion of her angst ridden teenage years in her local video club devouring movies, the good, the bad and the downright politically incorrect. She writes from a fan’s perspective, not to say that this is a gushing sentimental homage to the Brat Pack or Molly Ringwald, far from it.
Her familiar and pacey tone instantly transports you back to the Thatcher / Regan era in all it’s bat-winged, soft perm, Cold War, power ballad glory. After each chapter, I immediately wanted to revisit my favourite 80’s movies to see if they’d stood the test of time – Three Amigos, Romancing the Stone, Flamingo Kid to name but a few.
Freeman has an astute take on John Hughes’ blue-collar protagonists, the feminist triumph that is Dirty Dancing and the impact Tim Burton’s Batman had on future superhero movies. She talks in detail of the studios attitude towards race during the 80s (remember the film Soul Man people?) with a salute to the legendary Eddie Murphy and, quite rightly, devotes an entire chapter to why Nora Ephron’s When Harry Met Sally is the ultimate romantic comedy.
Life Moves Pretty Fast is lovingly punctuated with nostalgia inducing lists of best scenes, best music, best one-liners, best Rick Moranis moments. Freeman’s writing is thrilling and joyful, but ultimately you are left with a bittersweet feeling.
The lamenting thread throughout is that the 80’s were the golden days of Hollywood and those days are long gone. It’s no one’s fault, it’s economics and globalization taking hold, as it is with everything else. Still with the likes of Amazon and Netflix these movies will not (cannot) die as long as we pass them down through our children. If my son doesn’t love ET the way I do, I know a little part of me will die inside.
I’m feel so lucky to have grown up when the world was driven by optimism and a can do spirit; that my cultural references for movies, music, fashion, arts and food (slice of Vienetta anyone?) reflected decadent, experimental, often wacky ideals.
Thanks Hadley, love your work. Plus, you’ve reaffirmed what I already knew but, in some circles, was ashamed to admit – Spaceballs is a truly great movie.