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John Hughes: A Life in Film: The Genius Behind Ferris Bueller, The Breakfast Club, Home Alone, and more Hardcover – March 25, 2015
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"This biography is a fascinating portrait of a brilliant, complex, and wonderful man. John Hughes forever transformed my world, and I am grateful for such a wonderful tribute." - Ally Sheedy
"John Hughes always treated me with respect and consideration, and was most generous with his insight. As a result of Mr. Honeycutt's detailed research, we learn John Hughes the person was even more impressive than John Hughes the writer/director. Reading this book was a bittersweet experience, making me feel the size of the loss of his premature passing. But it also confirmed for me that John Hughes was a giant, and under his great shadow I am fortunate to remain." - Judd Nelson
"Overall, this is a wonderful collection of stories and insight about John Hughes the man and the filmmaker. If you are a child of the 80's, a film student or just a fan of John Hughes' films, this book is a must get." - TheActionElite.com
STARRED REVIEW **
"Filmmaker John Hughes (1950-2009) captured the zeitgeist of suburban America in the 1980s and 1990s with his iconic teen-angst comedies and madcap cinematic romps. In this retrospective, film critic and blogger (honeycuttshollywood.com) Honeycutt reviews Hughes's legacy of creating memorable characters such as the title character in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), writing humorous and zany stories such as those of the "Vacation" and "Home Alone" movies, and spotting talented actors including Molly Ringwald, star of Sixteen Candles (1984) and Pretty in Pink (1986). While it is evident that the author is a fan, the book is not merely a nostalgic look back at an impressive filmography. Honeycutt takes a critical look at the filmmaker and his films. Even though Hughes's sensitivity and perfectionism led him to create believable "underdog" or "outsider" characters and endearing stories, these same traits also made it increasingly difficult for him to work with the actors, directors, and producers as his career progressed, eventually resulting in his retirement from filmmaking. VERDICT Reminiscent of a high school yearbook in format and filled with behind-the-scenes photos and movie posters, the book is perfect for film students, fans of Hughes's movies, and "I love the Eighties" devotees." - Library Journal
"...longtime Variety movie-industry reporter and critic and current film-studies professor Kirk Honeycutt's newly published retrospective, John Hughes: A Life In Film does something a bit different. Rather than examining Hughes's place in the broader cultural milieu or conducting an unauthorized census into Hughes's life story, Honeycutt takes us through a chronological tour of the Chicago native's two decades in show business. Starting with his transition from writing ad copy to joining National Lampoon's ranks and concluding on the bittersweet note of his somewhat infamous late-90s flops (Flubber, Baby's Day Out), Honeycutt also interviews collaborators including Matthew Broderick and Pretty in Pink director Howard Deutch (Hughes wrote the screenplay). The end result makes no bones about Hughes's erratic output and reputedly aloof personality, but also offers insight into creative and logistical process that went into his body of work." - FastCompany.com
About the Author
Kirk Honeycutt was chief film critic for The Hollywood Reporter for many years and subsequent to that, senior film reporter for that publication. He has covered major industry developments and has regularly attended such film festivals as Cannes, Sundance, Berlin, Toronto, Pusan, and Montreal while serving on juries at other festivals.Earlier in his career, he was chief film critic for the Los Angeles Daily News, a regular contributor to the New York Times' Arts & Leisure section, and a film columnist for the Los Angeles Times.Honeycutt is a member of the prestigious Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and is the creator of Honeycutt's Hollywood (honeycuttshollywood.com), a popular film review website. He appears regularly on television, radio, and podcasts, and currently teaches at Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. He lives with his wife, Mira, in Los Angeles.
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Right off the bat, the book admits in its opening pages that the Hughes family as well as some of his closest friends all refused to be interviewed, immediately squashing any hope of getting some in-depth insight into Hughes and his departure from Hollywood. Also, the book is loaded with typos and errors. For example, on page 3, a set photo of Hughes, Molly Ringwald and Michael Schoeffling on the set of SIXTEEN CANDLES is misidentified as being from the set of PRETTY IN PINK. While this error may seem minor and mistakes do indeed happen, one would think an editor would try to ensure that at least the first ten pages are near perfect, for if the author demonstrates in the first three pages that he apparently cannot tell the filmmaker's films apart, why should the reader believe he is worthy of writing an entire book on the man?
The opening chapters about Hughes working as an ad man at Leo Burnett while moonlighting as a joke writer and magazine editor were thankfully fulfilling. I always wanted to learn more about his start, and how he maintained his career from Chicago. However, the examination of Hughes's films are incredibly uneven, and disappointing as a result. While both SIXTEEN CANDLES and especially Hughes's most famous film THE BREAKFAST CLUB are richly profiled (23 pages are dedicated to the latter alone), other beloved Hughes classics like PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES are restricted to only a few pages. Hughes's screenplays are some of the most enjoyable reads because they often include extensive material--scenes, characters and at times even entire subplots--that were subsequently cut from the final film. While Honeycutt includes some of these interesting omissions for some films, he neglects to detail them for others (He neglects to mention a draft of PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES that reveals John Candy's Del Griffin has actually been manipulating some of the film's events so that Steve Martin's Neil Page will be forced to spend the holiday with him. A revelation that would've totally changed the nature of the character). This uneven approach gets even more frustrating as it moves into Hughes's family-centric comedies of the 90s. Only two light pages are dedicated to Hughes's final directorial effort CURLY SUE, and some of his late films are relegated to a couple paragraphs. For a 90s kid, these films were just as much a part of one's childhood as his classic teen comedies of the 80s, and I wanted more. Some of Hughes' films are more or less skipped. EUROPEAN VACATION is reduced to a sidebar, and perhaps Hughes's least known film, REACH THE ROCK is mentioned in only a few brief sentences.
Also, Honeycutt's tendency to insert his own personal criticism of a number of the films proves tedious, and at time calls into question how much he personally enjoyed Hughes's filmography. While the man is certainly entitled to his opinion, (I agree with his negative review of PRETTY IN PINK, but disagree with the same opinion of SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL), he dismisses CHRISTMAS VACATION as "a tepid affair" that "wastes an unusually fine cast" with "predictable and contrived" slapstick that "falls short--no pun intended." All this despite its 7.5 rating on IMDb and current status as a holiday classic that often plays for a 24-hour stretch on Christmas. Again, he is entitled to his opinion, but a coffee table book dedicated to a specific filmmaker hardly feels like the proper venue to voice it, unless he was that desperate to fill these 200 pages.
But the biggest letdown is the surprising lack of examination into Hughes's post-Hollywood life. For this reason specifically, I would personally recommend David Kamp's lengthy VANITY FAIR article "Sweet Bard of Youth," that was published in March 2010, which is a far more satisfying examination of Hughes's departure from public life than this book. Unlike Honeycutt, Kamp managed to interview Hughes's two sons, John III and James, who provided a picture of how Hughes continued to write endlessly during his retirement, and even profiles his final days and morning in great detail with a poignant ending. Unfortunately, Honeycutt devotes only a few brief pages to this segment of Hughes's life, the chapter I'd imagine the majority of fans are most curious about.
It's a pretty book, and it possesses a superficial overview of Hughes's work. For that I shall keep it on my shelf for any of my fellow Hughes fans to thumb through, but I continue to pine for that definitive and insightful book on one of my favorite filmmakers.