Mainstream Maverick: John Hughes and New Hollywood Cinema

Univ. of Texas. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9781477321294. $50. FILM
Though the films directed, produced, and/or written by John Hughes, such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Home Alone, were box office smashes and remain among the most iconic films of the 1980s and 1990s, Hughes has hardly been hailed as a critically acclaimed artist—which reflects his own assessment of his work. While Chard (contemporary screen media, Univ. of Brighton, UK) doesn’t argue that Hughes’s films are great works of art, she asserts that his career “offers intriguing insights into the operations and priorities of the American film industry in the New Hollywood Era.” Focusing on the director’s ability to work within an established studio system in Hollywood yet still maintain his independent status, the author presents a creditable and insightful argument for why Hughes is worth studying. Chard sets her book apart, presenting not a biography but rather a scholarly analysis (based on research for her PhD); she weighs in on how Hughes tapped into youth interests, how his films have depicted childhood and the American family, and Hughes’s transition to family film franchises.
VERDICT Though the narrative is at times dry, readers interested in a serious study of Hughes and 1980s cinema will enjoy this engaging book, which serves as a solid companion piece to Susannah Gora’s You Couldn’t Ignore Me if You Tried.
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