A needle drop is more than just the use of a popular song in a film—it’s an affecting moment that ignites our senses, bringing the visual medium to artistic heights. “Needle Drop” is a monthly column that will explore such moments, looking at how a variety of films across genres use pre-existing songs to colour a scene.
The use of The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me” in Goodfellas is arguably one of the most iconic scenes in film history, but I’d argue that the song’s inclusion in Adventures in Babysitting is far more fun. Any movie that starts with a lip syncing scene has to be good, and the delightful romp Adventures in Babysitting is no exception. When the sharp, resonant opening guitar plays over the production credits, you know that you are in for a treat. The crystal clear Phil Spector sound electrifies you.
Actress Elisabeth Shue leaps into the frame, her perfectly curly hair bouncing with each head bop. Behind her is the cute, pastel-coloured middle-class bedroom of her teenage dreams. Chris wears a long blue t-shirt and pantyhose, in the middle of preparing for a much-anticipated date. With a youthful vigour, she gyrates on the floor, dramatically shimmies around her room, and poses while she lip syncs to the famous 1960s pop hit. When Chris grabs her dress from the closet, the camera pulls in closer to her moony grin as she mouths “And then he kissed me,” fantasising about her date.
The flowing shots match Chris’ peppy energy. She starts twirling around the room, kisses a framed photo of her boyfriend, and dances with her giant stuffed teddy bear. Her joyful dancing has a sweet, girlish earnestness that really enlivens the scene. When the soulful Crystals sing about becoming a bride, Chris wears her white curtains like a veil before falling on the bed in a state of innocent ecstasy. The romantic potentials of her date are far too overwhelming. If all goes well tonight, she will see that little white chapel on the horizon.
“Then He Kissed Me” is a simple fifties-style romance about a girl who meets a boy at a dance, falls in love, gets married, and lives happily ever after. Chris is mesmerised by the song’s fairy tale ending and hopes that her own life will follow that pattern. Tonight could be the start of her happily ever after. With just one magical kiss, she will have found her future husband. But her boyfriend is anyone but Prince Charming, as the close-up of flashy red car and douchey license plate “SO COOL” foreshadows. By the end of the film, we learn that he is a liar and a cheat. The song plays again during the final credits when Chris has found a new love interest, one that is older, kinder, and seals the date with the heavenly kiss she was dreaming of.
Lip syncing to oldies songs was a popular trope during the 1980s (Risky Business, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, etc.), but the use of “Then He Kissed Me” in Adventures in Babysitting immediately hooks you. Elisabeth Shue’s charismatic performance and the overall sprightly energy makes it a truly memorable scene. You are instantly transported into the film’s zany world. It is the perfect set up for such a good-natured and entertaining caper.
by Caroline Madden
Caroline hails from the home state of her hero, Bruce Springsteen. Her favourite films include Dog Day Afternoon, Raging Bull, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Lord of the Rings. She has an MA degree in Cinema Studies from SCAD and also appears in Fandor, Reverse Shot, Crooked Marquee, and IndieWire. You can follow her on Twitter @crolinss. Order her book Springsteen as Soundtrack here.
Categories: Needle Drop