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Life Moves Pretty Fast' celebrates 80s cinema

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Book offers a look back at some of the era's most enduring films

Nostalgia particularly pop culture nostalgia is a powerful thing. Many of us are bound with an ongoing and eternal affection for the things that we loved during our formative years. Sometimes, that affection is justified; other times, not so much.

Hadley Freeman is possessed by that sort of sweet love of memory, unabashed in her adoration for the films of the 1980s. Her book 'Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies (and Why We Don't Learn Them from Movies Anymore)' (Simon & Schuster, $16) is a deep dive into her lifelong fascination with the films of the 1980s. She explores these films in terms both macro and micro, offering a wildly entertaining look at the reasons behind one woman's obsessive devotion.

Make no mistake this isn't some sort of encyclopedia of 1980s cinema. 'Life Moves Pretty Fast' is part cultural exploration, part memoir by proxy; Freeman takes time to dig into some of the themes inherent to the popcorn movies of the period, but does so through the lens of her own personal tastes.

She takes some time to argue that 'Dirty Dancing' might be the preeminent feminist film of the 1980s, deserving of a place alongside more often cited fare like 'Working Girl' or 'Baby Boom.' She talks about 'When Harry Met Sally' as romantic comedy perfection the likes of which we're unlikely to see again, thanks to the industry's move toward male-centric gross-out comedy.

Freeman spends a fair amount of time talking about Eddie Murphy's place atop the heap, viewing his massive 1980s success as perhaps the closest movie-going audiences had ever come to seeing a black star in a film where his blackness didn't matter. She also takes some time sharing her personal relationships with movies like 'The Princess Bride,' 'Back to the Future' and her all-time favorite 'Ghostbusters.'

Unsurprisingly, Freeman spends a lot of time dissecting the oeuvre of John Hughes, the undisputed king of 1980s teen comedy. She views Hughes as one of the best-ever at portraying teenagers as teenagers while also offering a surprising depth of insight regarding social dynamics particularly as they pertain to class differences.

As our past recedes into the rearview, our feelings about the cultural artifacts of that time tend to crystallize, so it's easy for us to remember the messenger while forgetting the message. That isn't to say that these films are deep and insightful treatises on the human condition disguised as teen comedies, but dismissing them as kitsch isn't fair either.

Whether you like them or not, there's no disputing that the films Freeman talks about tended to be fairly heartfelt and honest. They were allowed to feature idiosyncratic actors. They told stories that maintained a high level of relatability, but never felt like they had been focus grouped into bland flavorlessness. They were quirky and weird and flawed and sweet.

In short, they were the sort of movies that could never get made in the Hollywood of today.

'Life Moves Pretty Fast' works on a couple of levels. First, it's a delightful look back for those of a certain age (including yours truly) who share Freeman's affection for these movies and recognize their cultural value. Secondly and perhaps most importantly these conversations offer insight into the sort of person Freeman has become and how exposure to these films during her formative years might have shaped that becoming. It's a fast, engaging and wonderfully entertaining read in which Freeman shares her passion.

In shortI'll have what she's having.

Last modified on Wednesday, 15 June 2016 13:26

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