If there was one thing the 80s loved, it was a heavy-handed morality tale. And did For Keeps deliver that in spades.
The basic gist of For Keeps is that Teens Have Sex, and Their Lives Are Ruined (But You Should Love That Life-Ruining Baby Anyway).
The movie stars at-the-time America’s Sweetheart, Molly Ringwald, who spent Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty In Pink essentially being the good girl, and so of course she was the perfect candidate for a movie about a good girl who gets ruined by a stupid penis. Randall Batinkoff wasn’t known for anything in particular, or really anything else since, because that’s what happens when you knock up America’s Sweetheart, buddy.
So, Molly is an 18-year-old senior in high school whose life is full of promise and potential. She knows French! She’s gonna go to college! The world is her oyster, mostly due to the fact that her somewhat batty, overcontrolling mother has orchestrated this perfection. Which is why its pretty amazing that said mother allows Molly to go visit one of her prospective colleges without any supervision, just her and her best friend. Little does the mother know that it’s an elaborate plan for Molly and Randall to have a romantic weekend, where they stop in some field in the rain and have sex, which—as we are explicitly shown, impregnates her.
And that ruins everything.
Seriously, this is where the movie is going.
The first half hour involves them realizing they’re pregnant, fretting for a bit about what to do, telling their respective parents that they are pregnant, and getting kicked out of their respective homes for it. But these crazy kids are in love, and they think they’re gonna make it, so they get an apartment together! Said apartment is comically bad. It’s basically a big, horrible room with a free-standing toilet in the middle. Because nothing says, “You’re life has turned for the bad” like having to do your business in plain view of the world. But they try to make it work, and Randall gets a job while Molly… gestates, or something. I’m not sure what she’s doing to contribute at this point.
And then comes the best scene in the whole movie.
Randall comes home to find Molly in the shower (which, to be fair, she’s nested the place into something resembling a decent place to live), so he joins her in the shower. And she has a bit of a freak-out, because OH MY GOD HE’S NAKED AND SHE’S NEVER REALLY SEEN HIS PENIS.
I swear, people, this scene could ONLY have happened in the 80s.
I could easily write a two thousand word essay on this scene alone. But let’s break this down. At this point, of course, they’ve have had sex. Six times. Even though they’re totally in love, and teenagers, and are sharing an apartment for at least a week to get it as set up as it is, and had a “romantic weekend” and who knows what else, they can still explicitly count how many times they’ve had sex. And it’s in the single digits. They name all six places, and none of them are “in this apartment”.
But MORE TO THE POINT, not only can she count how many times they had sex without taking her shoes off, but however they had sex, and through whatever they did to lead up to sex, she NEVER saw his penis. NEVER. Just… unpack that, if you can. I mean, I know 80s era Hollywood liked to pretend—especially for teenagers—that there is no middle ground between kissing and intercourse, but was the person who wrote this a virgin or something? Or are they telling us that these kids really only had rote, foreplayless sex, where Molly more or less closed her eyes and thought of England, and neither of them had any particularly strong desire for sex? Because it comes off here that they only had sex in the first place because that’s what grown-ups do, and they were playing at being grown-ups, rather than out of genuine interest or attraction for each other.
Anyway, so she finally actually looks at his penis in the shower, and they joke and laugh and it’s sweet and romantic.
AND THAT IS THE LAST MOMENT OF JOY IN THIS MOVIE.
Seriously, the rest of the movie is just a tailspin of awful. Molly gets “kicked out” of high school—not really, but is called into the guidance office and asked to stop being seen as such a shameless hussy. So Molly has to hide herself and her shame in night school where decent people won’t have to see her. Then they still try to go to prom, but she goes into labor on prom, and has the baby. So, yay, baby! Right? Wrong. Molly gets the fastest, hardest case of postpartum depression on record. It just hits her like a rock the second the baby is out of her, and she won’t even touch the poor thing. It’s okay, later she’s cured when her would-be-father-in-law comes sneaking around the apartment, so thinking she’s about to be murdered makes her suddenly love her baby, and her depression never comes up again. THIS IS A THING THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS.
I swear to god, this movie had to have been written by screenwriters who were the equivalent of the guy in 40 Year Old Virgin, based on their understanding of sex, cohabitation and babies. “You know how when you pick up a baby and it feels like a bag of sand?”
Things come to a head when Molly finds out that Randall has a scholarship somewhere and can go to MIT and be a real person, but he won’t go because said scholarship won’t allow married housing. So they sit down and work out the best way to make use of this opportunity to maximize their futures together. I’M KIDDING. Nothing like that happens. Instead, Molly decides he needs to go, and uses the only skill we’ve seen her reliably demonstrate: being a horrible person.
Seriously, this is her plan:
Step 1: Be horrible.
Step 2: Randall will run away and go to college.
Step 3: Mission accomplished.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t quite comply, especially when he finds out Molly’s Stupid Plan. At this point he is going to college, but merely a state school instead of the MIT offer (OH THE HUMANITY), and Molly is living with the baby and her mother, and they get back together and everything is “happy” at the end. “Happy” in the sense that they reached the conclusion that people who aren’t assholes would have managed months earlier without the drama in the middle.
This was Molly’s last hurrah at playing a teenager, and she moved on to playing “dark, edgy” stuff like Fresh Horses and Malicious. Neither of those movies will ever be covered here by me. I couldn’t possibly sit through either one multiple times.
NEXT WEEK: Playing For Keeps