If ever a movie character managed to seamlessly blend the ridiculous and the sublime, it would have to be Steff (no last name, please) from Pretty in Pink. The ridiculous? This is high school, yet James Spader was 26 at the time and looked about 32. He’s purportedly a rich “preppie” from Chicago but instead of wearing Polo Ralph Lauren with some Brooks Brothers thrown in as rich preppie kids from the midwest would have done back then, he prefers baggy silk/linen blend suits paired with sockless smoking slippers like some rent boy from South Beach. Most, if not all, high school students have classes to attend, but Steff wanders the hallways of the school at will, puffing on cigarettes and peeking in windows like some Versace-clad ghost who somehow never received his copy of the student rules and regulations handbook.
The sublime? All of the above! Spader plays this shuffling, slouching villain so over the top that it actually works. That breathtaking mad flow, that insufferable clipped diction, that bulletproof hands-in-jacket-pockets insouciance! Not to mention the relentless browbeating of his milquetoast buddy Blane, his vicious, tactless “wooing” of Andie, and of course he and Duckie going all handbags on each other in a deserted hallway. (Steff’s contemptuous “Nice, huh?” just before spitting on the school floor is the single best moment in the movie, in my book).
And the hits keep coming:
“What, are you shopping for records or something?” (A query directed towards a guy flipping through records while inside a record shop)
“If you got a hard-on for trash don’t take care of it around us, pal!”
“When Bill and Joyce are through with you, you won’t know whether to shit or go sailing.”
“You got a problem, friend??”
And of course his piece de resistance: “The girl was, is and will always be NADA.”
Is it really any surprise that after graduation, he moved out to LA, changed his name to Rip, and started slinging ‘caine?