Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
Howard Deutch’s return to teen drama after Pretty in Pink shows him again in top form in his sophomore effort. John Hughes also brings his top writing game, providing probably even more memorable dialogue. They were also able to bring their full creative vision of
Howard Deutch’s return to teen drama after Pretty in Pink shows him again in top form in his sophomore effort. John Hughes also brings his top writing game, providing probably even more memorable dialogue. They were also able to bring their full creative vision of the narrative, unlike in the previous effort, where test audiences’ opinion and studio input changed the script’s ending. However unfair it may be, one can’t help but compare Some Kind of Wonderful and Deutch’s first effort. Fortunately, Some Kind of Wonderful stands on its own with its revised charm.
Again, it’s another story of attraction against the class divide, with a twist on the Ringwald feature. This time, we focus on a male protagonist of lesser means, Keith (Eric Stoltz), along with good friend Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), a tomboy in similar outsider status. They have close bonds in status-conscious suburban L.A. However, their friendship comes to a breaking point when Keith gets an opportunity to date Amanda (Lea Thompson), one of the popular girls in high school. Though of a similar background as Keith and Watts, her previous relationship with the wealthy bully Hardy (Craig Sheffer), raised her star.
Will Keith and Amanda truly connect? Will Hardy really let his girl go? What’s truly hiding behind Watts’s opposition to her friend dating Amanda? And in an ancillary plot, what choice will Keith make as his father puts pressure on him to be the first in the family to attend college despite his pull to art?
Deutch doesn’t just cut and paste from his previous effort. Again, he animates most of his characters beyond teen movie stereotypes. This time, the comedy is almost entirely dropped. This is very surprising for a John Hughes work. Still, Some Kind of Wonderful is lively in the interaction between characters. Normally, the main character would be completely at odds with his family. However, despite the normal family bouts, one can sense the closeness and love within the Nelson family. I’m drawn to two scenes. One is where the older sister reveals something to him, and another is where he and his father fiercely butt heads over a college matter. In both scenes, Keith ends up being closer to his family at the end. This wouldn’t come across as realistic if it wasn’t for the acting chops of the characters.
I will however say that there are contrasting lows with some of the other characters. One can overlook the lack of development with the youngest sister and the mother. However, the bully Hardy seems somehow less interesting, despite a greater scene presence, when compared to Steff of Pretty in Pink. Despite his propensity for violence and his aggressive possessiveness of Amanda, Hardy seems less top dog of the school. He appears more as fearful competitor with Keith. Compared with James Spader, Sheffer comes off less ostensibly charming. Even though one finds out the reason why Amanda was initially drawn to Hardy, it still ends up making her less desirable. However detrimental it’s to her character, it does provide a pathway to the conclusion.
The star character is Watts, and her interactions with Keith lead more logically to the film’s end than Andie’s and Duckie’s relationship does to Hughes’s desired original ending. Watts and Keith do not have a one-sided relationship. It doesn’t seem that Keith is just tolerating her. They both care about each other and their interests. Despite her pride in her independence and outsider status, Watts doesn’t come across as silly. One can understand why Keith would want to stick by her, even if it causes him to lose cool points. Her protectiveness of him, though strong, doesn’t come across as stalkerish.
The typical new wave soundtrack again highlights the drama of the scenes. Personally, I don’t think it’s as good as Pretty in Pink’s. However, the bands The Jesus and Mary Chain, Charlie Sexton, and Propaganda, who is featured during the opening Watts drumming sequence, stand out. The slightly heavier sounds appear to reflect the more angsty nature of the characters.
Critics generally praised Some Kind of Wonderful on release. People today seem to have neglected it in contrast with other teen films of the era. Perhaps this is due to the dramatic earnestness of the acting combined with the lack of winking at the audience. I think this separates it from the rest of the pack. Moreover, speaking of pack, it’s Brat Pack light, having only Lea Thompson, whom most view as an ancillary member anyways.
Still, one shouldn’t view the Some Kind of Wonderful as Pretty in Pink 2.0. John Hughes is writing great scenes and dialogue for teens and adults for one of the last times before he shuffled off to “kidsville” and the unbridled wackiness of his 90s work. Deutch is at his apex, letting the actors play to their strengths. They didn’t know it at the time, but the golden age of teen dramady was coming to an end. It’s wonderful that this film could be one of the concluding chapters.