Sometimes, I read something and feel compelled to write about it purely in the hope that someone will be inspired by my meandering hyperbole to pick up the book in question. This is one of those times. If you, like me, have a deeply held and completely unironic love of eighties movies, then you, too, urgently need to read Hadley Freeman’s Life Moves Pretty Fast. It’s a hugely entertaining, informative and, most importantly, really fun work of non-fiction in which Freeman, a self-confessed eighties-movie-obsessive, discusses some of her favourite films of that decade, recounting her own views as well as conducting some in-depth analysis of issues like the representation of masculinity in Ghostbusters, race in Eddie Murphy’s films and feminist issues in Dirty Dancing and Steel Magnolias. Basically, it’s awesome.
The great strength of Life Moves Pretty Fast is Freeman’s enthusiasm; she really loves this subject, especially when it involves Ghostbusters (and especially when that involves Bill Murray). At one point, she explains that it took her longer than expected to write the book because, every time she typed the title of a film, she couldn’t resist the urge to watch it, and reading the book provides a very similar experience. As I write this, just a few hours after finishing the book, I am watching Footloose, one of my favourite films ever, never mind just from the eighties. Kevin Bacon’s tour de force is not, sadly, one of the films discussed at length in Life Moves Pretty Fast, but in the epilogue, Freeman does joke about a potential sequel so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some detailed analysis of the representation of youth culture or flicky foot dance moves.
I was born in 1983, so my formative experiences of 1980s cinema was heavily influences by my parents, which means Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back and Back to the Future featured often and I would still down tools to watch any of those now. I have already mentioned my love of Footloose (it’s just got to the bit whre Kevin Bacon walks into school in his snazzy skinny tie. It is all I can do to keep typing this), and I maintain immense love for Top Gun (my husband’s favourite film; I’m going to make him read Freeman’s chapter about its intense homoeroticism so he knows that’s actually a thing and not just something I point out every time he makes me watch it just to upset him), Labyrinth, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Ghostbusters and, slightly anomalously, Blade Runner. Look, I just really love Harrison Ford, okay? He is the eighties to me. Any time Freeman mentioned any of these films, I wanted to dive into the book and force her to talk to me about them. I am sure she would find this flattering rather than terrifying. Especially when I challenged her to a volleyball match or light sabre fight.
If reading this has made you whoop and holler about the decade when Tom Cruise was actually good or given you nostalgia for a time when all films weren’t made by Marvel, I strongly recommend you pick up a copy of Life Moves Pretty Fast. You won’t regret it.
What are your favourite eighties movies? Do you, like me, long for a return to a time when all films were about 93 minutes long rather than 2 and a half arse-numbing hours? Perhaps you can even explain to me why The Breakfast Club is still so popular, because I watched it last night and I do not get it at all.