We know all this. We do. Yet while discussing that debut work of fiction with Ringwald — who has called to chat from her L.A. home in advance of a Wednesday appearance at D.C.’s Sixth & I Synagogue — it is impossible to resist mentioning “Sixteen Candles,” the 1984 high-school-crush classic that concludes with the chiffon and the cake and the kissing of Jake, dreamiest movie character to ever don a sweater vest.
Which brings us to an important series of questions . . . um, Molly Ringwald? You know that scene in “Sixteen Candles” where your character, Samantha Baker, confesses to her dad that she has a crush and then her dad says, “When it happens to you, Samantha, it’ll be forever”? Even though the title of “When It Happens to You” clearly refers to the shattering moment when one of your characters realizes her husband has been unfaithful, doesn’t it also refer to that moment from “Sixteen Candles”? Like, kinda sorta?
“Wow,” says Ringwald in a tone that suggests she is either amazed by the acknowledgement of this synchronicity or just decided this is the dorkiest John-Hughes-movie-related inquiry she’s ever confronted. “No, I never thought of that. . . . No, I never made that connection.”
The Films. At age 44, with a half-lifetime of myriad experiences and achievements behind her, Ringwald cannot escape The Films, the ’80s teen-movie trifecta — “Sixteen Candles,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty in Pink” — that transformed her into writer-director Hughes’s chief muse and a copper-haired role model for anyone attempting to navigate adolescence with the sound of Simple Minds thumping through their Walkman headphones.
Ringwald was the rare young actress who could pull off back-to-back roles as the outcast with the neglected significant birthday and the popular rich girl capable of performing impressive lip-gloss-application tricks. She embodied the person Gen X females thought they already were, as well as the one they hoped they could someday become.
Ringwald seems to understand all that, and she has publicly handled the continued obsession with her Hughes era with grace and a sense of humor.
“What am I going to tell people?” she laughs. “Don’t like those movies? You know? They mean a lot to a lot of different people, and I would never try to take that away from them. I just want to stay focused on what I am doing.”
What she’s doing now is writing, a pursuit that benefits from having a battalion of fans who double as potential book buyers. Those same book buyers also happen to be, in many cases, like Ringwald herself — 40-something moms and dads dealing with the same heartbreak, regret and parenting conundrums that ripple through the lives of the Californians in “When It Happens to You.”