Alex Cox and John Hughes have little in common directorially–except for Harry Dean Stanton. A testament to the character actor’s ability to flit in and out of any style, that he could work for two such disparate men isn’t necessarily that surprising when looking at Repo Man as a prequel to Pretty in Pink. Apart from the fact that Emilio Estevez and Molly Ringwald–the young’uns Stanton has to deal with in each film–were both members of the Brat Pack, the parallels between the two films don’t stop there.
As Bud in Repo Man, released in 1984, just two years prior to Pretty in Pink, Stanton creates the genesis of the deadbeat dad that will become Jack Walsh, the man incapable of getting up early or making it to job interviews mainly because he “doesn’t feel like it.” When Bud crosses paths with punk (in its true meaning then) Otto Maddox, it’s only to ask him a quick favor: drive a specific car out of the neighborhood for twenty-five bucks. Recently fired from his job at the supermarket, Otto is in no position to turn down the money, no matter how sketchy it seems. And so it goes that Bud takes Otto under his wing, adopting a preliminary father role quite nicely–one that will ready him to give Andie the pep talk she needs to confidently pursue Blane (Andrew McCarthy), her “richie” love interest (even though that turns out to be pretty bad advice when he ghosts her before prom).
As Bud shows Otto the tricks of the trade, he warns, “The life of a repo man is always intense.” So intense, that one gets the sense maybe Jack in Pretty In Pink is still recovering from it and blew all the dough he made on buying the house for him and Andie. Then, of course, there’s the fact that Pretty in Pink is blatantly filmed in L.A. in spite of most of Hughes’ work almost always taking place in Chicago or the suburbs thereof. Coincidence? Definitely not. Repo Man‘s above shots of L.A.’s freeways are part of what makes it so iconic.
After getting shot, Bud suddenly realized all he could lose, decided to pack it in and really take care of his daughter. Only problem is, once a repo man, always a repo man. What possible other profession could he go for? Hence the whole perpetual unemployment thing.
Then there are his musings on the common man to Bud as they wait in the car together. Like his insistence to Andie that she’s special for being different, Bud seethes, “Look at those assholes. Ordinary fucking people. I hate ’em.” This is the kind of contempt he would later reserve for the yuppie that broke his daughter’s heart. Andie, trying to ignore her dad’s sordid past, simply goes about trying to take care of him while mostly talking about herself so that she doesn’t have to delve too deeply into Daddy’s past. Needling him to go to the employment agency, Andie doesn’t press too hard for fear that Jack might bring up the repo man idea again. So she contents herself with bringing home most of the bacon by working at a record store. Otto would approve of that.
What he wouldn’t approve of, however, is Bud’s loss of identity. In Jack’s final scene of Pretty in Pink, Otto was probably looking down on him in sheer disappointment from his car/spaceship, wondering how he could disappoint Bud so badly by surrendering the action-packed life of a repo man for the dull existence of a family man. And OMD playing at the prom? Get the fuck outta here.