Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman
I’ll be the first to admit it, at 37, I’m starting to feel my age. I don’t mean I’m falling apart (well, perhaps a bit) but I mean that I’m spending far of much of my time sounding like my father. Growing up in the eighties, I would hear how the sixties were the greatest, of how my Dad saw Hendrix play one evening in the RamJam Club in Brixton, how he felt when Hurst sealed his hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup Final and how he had lunch with a lovely young lady whom he had to be told later by the owner of the cafe that that was Twiggy. Now, with a fourteen year old daughter who has to listen to me bang about how films were better in the eighties and music in the nineties, I can see the eye rolling I must have given my dad all those years ago. But, I’ve read a book and I think I’ve found a kindred spirit in Hadley Freeman.
Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From 80’s Movies (and Why We Don’t Learn Them From Movies Any More) is Freeman’s journey through 80’s film and why these films, while popcorn fodder for the most part, held so much more in them than the fare we get today. Latent racism included. Freeman is a features writer for The Guardian and like those of us cool kids back in the day, spent her formative years in the dark of her local cinema. Life Moves Pretty Fast is a whirlwind run through the things that 80’s films covered in ways that the mainstream films of today run in fear from; abortion (Dirty Dancing), class struggle in films not made by Ken Loach (Ferris Bueller’s, Pretty in Pink), women being more than the pun/object/desire of the film (Steel Magnolias, even if I do agree with Rich Hall that Sam Sheppard is kinda shoehorned into that film), decent superhero films (Burton’s Batman), lots of Ghostbusters chat and how race was tackled in basically everything Eddie Murphy did in the 80’s. It is a broad range, tackled with aplomb and it is a wonderful read. Freeman’s style just invites you in and even when you find yourself not agreeing with her (Iron Eagle is ace, Hadley), you still feel a part of the conversation. And a conversation it is. The arguments are made logically and the background and interviews with those who made the films are fun and insightful. And then you get the comparison with today, which breaks your heart all over again. I remember seeing all three Back to the Future films with my parents in our local cinema in North York, Toronto (Part 3 days before we boarded the plan for London) and I can’t think of such a family affirming bunch of films I have been able to see the same with my daughter (short of us sitting down and bingeing on all of them on blu ray). And this is the element that Freeman zeroes in on, not that the appetite for these sorts of films has gone, it is the desire to make them that has.
Burton showed us that a comic book film can be something special, yet we have sanitised Marvel-fare constantly in the cinemas that doesn’t show us anything near to the issue that their own books do. Take Iron Man 3 for an example. Early scripts took on the Demon in a Bottle storyline (here is the always brilliant Den of Geek's take on that storyline) where Tony Stark battles alcohol addiction. What did we end up with? Not very much to be honest. Rant over and back to the book.
Hadley Freeman has crafted a highly enjoyable and very informative look at what made those films, and the environment within Hollywood, happen and the contrasts with today that does not foster “those sorts of films”. Don’t get me wrong, the eighties were not always great (look at what happened to Rambo in the 80’s, shoulder pads and big hair, really big hair). But we had Rob Reiner, John Hughes, Kathleen Turner kicking all kinds of ass and, of course, “as you wish.” Life Moves Pretty Fast is a fabulous read and, more importantly, very timely. While I doubt we will see the like of those films again, it is great to be able to have someone talk about them as well as Hadley Freeman has and continues to do, just send her a Ghostbusters question on Twitter and find out.
Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman is out now. Follow Hadley on Twitter at @HadleyFreeman