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Sixteen Candles

Sixteen Candles

By Patrick Samuel • February 26th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Universal Pictures

Original release: May 4th, 1984
Running time: 93 minutes

Writer and director: John Hughes

Cast: Molly Ringwald, Blanche Baker, Michael Schoeffling, Haviland Morris, Gedde Watanabe, Anthony Michael Hall, Joan Cusack, John Cusack

Sixteen Candles

Every year it’s the same. It begins around early September, sometimes even late August. I’ll start by circling the date in the calendars with a big bright red marker – October 13th – that way no one can miss it. There’ll be little notes left around the house, subtly hinting at how I’d like to celebrate the day. As my birthday draws nearer I can’t stop imagining what it would feel like to walk into a room and be surprised by the elaborate planning that went into making this day so special. There’ll be music, balloons, streamers and a home-made white chocolate sponge cake – my favourite.

The book I keep mentioning I’d like to have, how thoughtful, you shouldn’t have! It’s only 8am and my birthday feels wonderful so far, but to top it all off, we’ll spend the rest of it walking in the countryside, before having dinner somewhere and a few drinks afterward. It never happens like that though, and I usually end up baking the cake myself and spending the most part of the day alone, before preparing my own birthday meal. I’ve never had a surprise birthday I didn’t have to plan, so in a lot of ways, year after year, I find myself relating to Molly Ringwald in this classic John Hughes film.

Ringwald plays Samantha Baker, a high school sophomore student. She wakes up on her 16th birthday and despite being a little disappointed that she still looks and feels like a 15-year-old, she has high hopes for the day ahead of her. That’s until she goes downstairs and realises her entire family have forgotten all about her birthday. They’re all too preoccupied with her older sister Ginny’s (Blanche Baker) wedding the next day.

Sixteen Candles

Sam’s day goes from bad to worse. At school she fills out a sex quiz indicating she’d like to lose her virginity to Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling) – the hunky jock she’s totally infatuated with – and then panics when she finds out her best friend didn’t get the note when she passed it to her in class. Jake ends up reading it. Later on she’s stalked by Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), a very geeky and over confident kid who thinks he has a chance with her. As the school day ends, Sam returns home and is horrified to find not only to find her grandparents have arrived and will be staying in her room, but they too have forgotten about her birthday. Sam’s only hope is to retreat to the school dance later that night where she might see Jake.

Unfortunately, Ted’s there and he’s on a mission to get her panties so he can win a bet with his friends. After another failed attempt to woo her, Sam runs off, but they end Sixteen Candlesup sharing a moment together where they talk openly and honestly about the things bothering them, such as un-celebrated birthdays and teen horniness.

During this discussion Sam tells Ted she’s saving herself for a guy who doesn’t even know she exists – Jake. She’s then over the moon when Ted tells her Jake’s been asking about her. After the dance, there’s a party at Jake’s house but he spends much of the time trying to telephone Sam at home, but by now she’s fast asleep on the sofa in her living room, having had a very unsuccessful 16th birthday. It seems like it won’t end well for Sam, Jake or even Ted, but things have a way of working out, especially in a John Hughes movie. While there might be tears at bedtime for Sam, something brighter might come along in the morning, even though it’s the day of the dreaded wedding and Ginny’s taken four muscle relaxants because her “bill” came a little early!

Throughout Sixteen Candles we often see Sam alone, she’s desperate for Jake to like her, but she’s terrified of making the first move, even though she has lots of chances to. As it’s her birthday as well, she’s constantly waiting and disappointed there’s no big “Surprise!” and that all the attention is focused on her Stepford Wife-like sister, although she doesn’t seem to resent her for what’s lacking in character, Ginny is as she is and that’s all there is to her.

What I always remember thinking whenever I watch the film – usually before my Sixteen Candlesbirthday – is that I could never bear to go through my own without a big song and dance, even if I have to make it myself. I guess Sam’s always had her family fussing over her birthdays and that’s why it affected it her so much this time, whereas I’ve never experienced the big “Surprise!” and have somehow gotten used to my own self-made ones. Even if I do spend the day alone, I always make sure it’s a damn good day and I do everything I want to do, which sometimes includes watching movies like these, odd as it might seem.

While there’s a great soundtrack and some funny moments and lines – “I can’t believe I gave my panties to a geek” – Sixteen Candles is really made up of these quieter scenes where we see Sam doing the patient thing and hoping for everything working out in the end. She doesn’t make a big fuss, she doesn’t throw a tantrum, and she holds it together quietly, only shedding a few tears when no one’s looking.

In short, she doesn’t do any of the things I do whenever I realise something’s not going my way! While I’ve learnt to put on a brave face, the one thing I’ve never quite managed is being patient and that’s why I’ll probably be watching Sixteen Candles again this year while I sit and plan another surprise birthday party for myself.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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