Last week after John Hughes passed away, it affected me more than I thought it would. I mean this was the man who had written movies that changed the way I thought and lived. He had characters with whom I could identify. Plus, the soundtracks of some of those movies I still listen to and know all the words to and instantly take me back to that movie or time in my life.
The great thing about him though was that he also appealed to the masses. There is not really any teen angst in Planes, Trains and Automobiles or Home Alone, but they were movies that became more about the plot and character development than CGI or special effects. It showed me that popcorn movies could still have great writing and characters and it is something missing from many mainstream movies today. There are great movies today with great characters but, they are for the most part confined to limited releases and have to search them out.
So, after his death, I decided to have a marathon of sorts and the first movie I chose was Uncle Buck. To me it combines the best of John Hughes movies. It has his classic humor, but also showed his ability to understand what teenagers are thinking and teaches life lessons without being preachy or judgmental.
Well of course as soon as I started watching it, and saw the first scene with the character Tia played by Jean Louisa Kelly I had to pick up the phone and give her a call. I loved Jean in that movie. She was perfect for the part. She was a high school junior who, immediately before she was cast had moved to a new city and a new school and so it wasn’t hard for her to identify with the emotions and issues Tia was facing in her life.
When we finally connected on the phone, Jean was with her family out in Delaware and had been in Maryland which of course led to a discussion of Maryland blue crabs and the best beaches and whether a man my size should really be seen in public in just a bathing suit. She had just gone on vacation after finishing a Hallmark Channel movie which comes out at Christmas. The movie is called The Christmas Gift. A Hallmark Christmas movie? Better bring the tissues. I forgot to ask her what it’s like filming a Christmas movie in the middle of 100 degree days in July. I also forgot to ask her if her mom would let me use her beach house for a few days. I just want to be prepared because I know Gwyneth Paltrow is going to come back from vacation and she is going to write in GOOP about some cleanse I need to do which involves salt water, sand and chocolate and is sure to make me feel like a S’more. I can feel it.
Jean has been in so many movies and television shows since Uncle Buck and was probably more famous as a teenager for singing in Mr. Holland’s Opus than for her role in Uncle Buck. Most people know her now from her role as Kim Warner on Yes Dear, but, it all started for her back with John Hughes and Uncle Buck.
I wanted to know everything I had not heard before but started by asking Jean about her experience with John. You have to know that this was Jean’s first movie. She didn’t know what a movie experience was supposed to be like. She told me when she first read the script for Uncle Buck her first response was that it was honest. I had never thought about it like that before, but that summarizes his writing style. It was honest. She remembers him being very patient and very willing to take the time to get things correct without ever getting angry. In one of the most memorable scenes of the movie, Macaulay Culkin asks John Candy’s character a series of questions. Macaulay just couldn’t get the rhythm correct but Hughes never got frustrated. The problem was finally solved when Jean turned the questions into a song with the right kind of rhythm.
Another thing she remembered was the close relationship John Hughes had with John Candy. Hughes would let the cameras roll after each John Candy scene and let him come up with four or five different lines or improv another way to do the scene. Hughes trusted Candy, and Jean said it was obvious Hughes trusted all his actors and had faith they would deliver. I would say that over the years his trust was well rewarded.