"Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned From Eighties Movies" by Hadley Freeman, Simon and Schuster, 339 pages, $16 paperback original.
Let’s start with “Steel Magnolias.” What is widely known now as as the Bechdel Movie Test for well-represented women in movies, came from cartoonist Allison Bechdel whose formulation was: A movie “has to have at least two women in it. 2) Who talk to each other. 3) About something besides a man.” U. K. Guardian columnist Freeman formulates the “Magnolia Test” to determine “whether or not a movie is a proper women’s movie: 1) The cast is largely, maybe even solely, female. 2) The female characters talk to each other about a million things other than men and genuinely like each other .3) And the relationship between the women is far more important than any they have with a man. 4) Bonus points if any of the following are in the film: Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Bette Midler, Olympia Dukakis. Triple for Sally Field.”
Her point, among many about “Steel Magnolias,” is, no the '80s weren’t a bad decade for women in movies, “Fatal Attraction” nothwithstanding. One of the critics blurbing this paperback original underrates it considerably by calling it “walking down memory lane for those of us who’ve worshipped at the Church of Molly Ringwald, and new initiates.” It’s better than that. It’s a smart and funny and insightful portrait of a decade’s movies and what they taught their audiences, “and why we don’t learn them from movies anymore.” The movies she focuses on are “Dirty Dancing” (Chapter Titled “Abortion Happens And That’s Just Fine”), “The Princess Bride” (subtitle “True Love Isn’t Just About The Kissing Parts”); “Pretty in Pink” (subtitled “ Awkward Girls Should Never Have Makeovers”),“When Harry Met Sally” (“RomComs Don’t Have To Make You Feel Like You’re Having a Lobotomy”), “Ghostbusters” and “Top Gun” (“How to Be a Man”), “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (“The Impact of Social Class”), “Baby Boom” (“Successful Women Are Sexy as Hell”), “Back to the Future” (“Parents are Important”), “Batman” (“Superheroes Don’t Have to Be Such a Drag”), Eddie Murphy movies (“Race Can Be Transcended.”) Obviously, long ago and far away.