Something Unpredictable But In The End It’s Right
by Claire Howorth
Selecting one John Hughes from his 80s oeuvre is a task too difficult, too utterly arbitrary, and would no doubt result in a criminally wrong decision, forever burned into this site’s history. So I’m going the pragmatic route: a formative flick, one that’s subtly shaped my life over many tens of viewings. Paramount to and overarching all that: it’s how I learned the F-word. Adventures in Babysitting.
To start, it contains my favorite opening scene of any movie: Chris Anderson (Elisabeth Shue) swings around her four-poster in a hideously lovely drop-waist velvet frock singing “Then He Kissed Me” (NB: pivotal tune in Goodfellas). Ah, but no—her boyfriend’s “sick,” so Chris decides to babysit.
Over the course of the Odysseian evening, Chris & the kids head from the burbs (recalling my beloved Hughes, those affluent banlieus of Chicago) into the city to pick up her friend (a dowdy, hysterical Penelope Ann Miller) from the big bad bus station.
On the way—and the way back—they encounter a plethora of obstacles: gangsters, criminals, sexual avarice, brokendown cars, near-death, etc.
When the whitey cast is forced to use the gasp-black-people subway, the dialogue that changed my life occurs:
“Don’t FUCK with the Lords of Hell,” says a dark, dangerous man to the babysitter.
“Don’t FUCK with the babysitter,” replies Shue.
Mooooooommy, what’s ‘fuck’ mean? calls a 6-year-old me into the kitchen…
And thus into my life enters the critical noun/verb/adjective pasttime. Never would I be the same.
One of the other brilliant aspects of Adventures in Babysitting is what may be the most gloriously poetic high school slut name EVER: Sessalee Plexor.
It rolls off the tongue like a giant, fleshy lollipop. You can practically smell the backseat-sex through the TV screen when Chris finds fair Sessalee—swathed in a fantastic crepe-y, one-shoulder, purely-80s getup—chowing down at a chi-chi Chi-town restaurant with her man. Totally in the fabulous mold of other 80s-movie pouty-lipped, sometimes dubiously named sloooots, to whom, tangentially, I’d like to now pay tribute:
Here’s to you, Benny Hanson, of Pretty in Pink, who looked so luxuriantly loose in bra, panties, and James Spader’s linen blazer.
Here’s to you, Beth Truss, you bitch from Better Off Dead (How could any girl take John Cusack for granted?? Perhaps you were better off dead when Freddy Krueger killed you in Nightmare on Elm Street).
And here’s to you, Ginny Baker, Molly Ringwald’s sister on Sixteen Candles. Yes, your wedding was the subplot & all, but you were quite perceptibly a once-whore.
But back to the movie at hand. In closing, some also-greats about it: Playboy (is the babysitter really the centerfold?); sexual tension with one of Chris’ charges; budding romance with Hot College Guy Who Drives Jeep and Does Not Date-Rape Babysitter; wood-paneled Chevy wagon; incredible footage of the Smurfit-Stone building in Chicago; seemingly-sketchy-black-man-to-the-rescue storyline; rife teenage acne references; and, of course, ultimately tricking the Parents & making it home safely.
Claire Howorth is the senior contributor to This Recording. She also works for Vanity Fair, and you are permitted to view an appropriate image of her below for no longer than five seconds.
portrait of the author as a young elisabeth shue
“When Giants Fall” – Love Is All (mp3)
“Wishing Well” – Love Is All (mp3)
“Last Choice” – Love Is All (mp3)
“Sea Sick” – Love Is All (mp3)
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