Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

14 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Some Kind of Wonderful” is written by John Hughes and has a similar story to Hughes’ other screenplay, “Pretty in Pink.” The story itself is old, but people will see the connection from “Some Kind of Wonderful” to “Pretty in Pink” because they were both written by John Hughes and they both feature teenagers. (Both movies also have the same director—Howard Deutch.) What’s the story? A high school outcast has a crush on a more popular student, while the outcast’s best friend (of the opposite sex) has a crush on the outcast and situations follow that could or could not bring them together. You know, the protagonists in these movies never know better than to just go with the pal—see “Secret Admirer,” see “The Sure Thing,” even see “Lucas” and you’ll see what I mean.

The story follows a high school senior named Keith (Eric Stoltz), who comes from a working-class family, loves art, works at a gas station, and is an outcast at school because of all of the above. His best friend is a tomboy named Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), who cares about two things—her drum-kit and Keith. But of course, Keith doesn’t even know about Watts’ feelings towards him, because he has a crush on Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson), the school’s rich “uptown girl.” He gets his chance to ask Amanda out on a date when her boyfriend Hardy (Craig Sheffer) cheats on her and she says yes to Keith.

Keith finds out that if he goes on his date with Amanda, then Hardy and his friends will humiliate him that same night, but Keith decides to continue with the date and hopefully find some way to teach Hardy a lesson. But on his date with Amanda, he asks himself what he should have been asking himself before. Is he interested in Amanda’s soul or just her body? In fact, that’s exactly what Amanda asks Keith on their date to an art museum, after Keith hangs up his own painting of her. And what about Watts…? This is the movie’s more intriguing concept—to ask the question of whether or not the guy deserves the girl, not merely the question of will the guy get the girl?

While all this is going on, Keith is constantly pushed by his father (John Ashton) to start applying to different colleges, so he’ll get into at least one. But Keith doesn’t want to go to college—his father never went to college, and Keith would rather devote his life to artwork. And here we have a rarity in John Hughes’ teenager movies—an adult character that is just as interesting as the teenagers. I can only remember two before “Some Kind of Wonderful”—the father characters in “Sixteen Candles” and “Pretty in Pink”—here’s another one. (The principal in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was only interesting in that movie’s first half.) And it’s pleasing to see how the situation resolves—not with a shouting match, but with a civilized argument.

There are problems with “Some Kind of Wonderful”—some scenes progress slowly, and some characters are pretty standard; particularly Hardy, who’s a one-dimensional snobby, begrudging rich kid. But it’s pleasing to see Keith make friends with someone who could have been a villain—a punk kid named Duncan (Elias Koteas) whom Keith meets in detention. I suppose that’s supposed to make it OK that the rich Hardy is the villain of this movie. There’s also Keith’s incorrigible junior-high-aged sister (Maddie Corman), who, like most junior high girls, is a brat who just wants to be cool.

(By the way, the funniest scene is when the sister just flat-out SCREAMS when her father says, “Hi, honey,” outside her classroom at school. Tip for junior high school kids—if you want to be cool and not be made fun of, don’t scream in the classroom.)

The three central young actors are appealing—Eric Stoltz is dim but likable as Keith, and Lea Thompson isn’t the snob that Amanda could have been. But my favorite is Mary Stuart Masterson as Watts. As a tough tomboy, she’s a lot of fun, though she has a tough exterior but a soft interior. She’s dedicated to the things she cares about. She even volunteers to chauffer Keith and Amanda around on their date—it’s weird, but kind of sweet. And who could forget the look in her eyes when she sees the other two together? There are a lot of scenes in which Masterson must feel one way about something while pretending to feel another way, and she’s a fully capable actress.

“Some Kind of Wonderful” is an improved version of “Pretty in Pink,” which was too full of itself, in my opinion. “Some Kind of Wonderful,” for it’s faults, actually takes more chances for us to like the characters and has an ending that is near perfect for the movie. It’s a movie about insecure teenagers making smart and dumb decisions and dealing with rejection and acceptance. It’s a nice movie.

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