February 27, 2017 Some Kind of Wonderful – A Teen Movie Gem 30 Years Later
John Hughes defined the youth film genre in the ’80s. His voice and viewpoint on teen drama had an important impact on how teenagers were depicted in film. Hughes showcased the problems and challenges of teens and placed a spotlight on the reality of social class distinction and the expectations that follow, yet always balancing more serious themes with wit and humor.
Hughes influence in film is significant as many movies in recent years like 2007’s Juno, 2015’s The Duff, and 2016’s The Edge of Seventeen all contain that John Hughes essence. Eventually, Hughes moved on and transitioned into creating more adult-themed films, but before he left behind the genre that he helped revolutionize, he wrote and produced the sometimes underrated 1987 flick, Some Kind of Wonderful.
Released in theaters on Friday, February 27th of 1987, let us be honest, when most people think of John Hughes films in the ’80s, Some Kind of Wonderful is not the first to come to mind. Classics like 1984’s Sixteen Candles, 1985’s The Breakfast Club, as well as 1986’s Pretty in Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off are much more recognizable. Perhaps part of the reason is due to the similarity between Some Kind of Wonderful and Pretty in Pink, with some even calling Some Kind of Wonderful the reverse Pretty in Pink.
Both films were directed by Howard Deutch and the plot lines are very much alike with the main differences being the gender reversal and the how each film ends. Anyone who had a big issue with Duckie not getting the girl in Pretty in Pink could feel some retribution when Keith (Eric Stoltz: Mask 1985, The Butterfly Effect 2004) tells his best friend and the girl he eventually realizes he is in love with, Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson: At Close Range 1986, Benny & Joon 1993), “You look good wearing my future.”
Like Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful sees its protagonist as an artistic dreamer from the wrong side of the tracks. Keith works at a gas station to save his money for college until he finally has a chance with the girl he has been pining for, the most popular girl in school, Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson: Back to the Future 1985, Caroline in the City TV series).
A breakup with rich boyfriend Hardy, the quintessential ’80s douchebag played by Craig Sheffer (Nightbreed 1990, Hellraiser: Inferno 2000), gives Keith his opportunity. Meanwhile, Keith’s tomboy rebellious drummer best friend, Watts, is secretly in love with him. Along with the help of an unlikely ally, Duncan (Elias Koteas: Gattaca 1997, Shutter Island 2010), thanks to their time together in detention, Keith concocts a plan to give Amanda the perfect date, while Hardy tries to salvage his ego by devising a plan to surprise Keith at a party with a rearrangement of his face. Even after learning about Hardy’s plan and believing Amanda is part of it, Keith decides to move ahead with the date, spending his college fund and convincing Watts to help out as the chauffeur for the night.
Before Amanda chooses herself over any boy and Keith ultimately discovers he has been going after the wrong girl, Some Kind of Wonderful gives us a truly memorable “best kiss” moment. Any girl crushing on her best friend watching this scene growing up probably hoped they could do the same. The chemistry between Masterson and Stoltz is magnetic here as Watts decides to show Keith the right way to kiss a woman. It was a moment that has had an influence on modern day teen movies like The Duff, which features a scene highly inspired by the “instructional” kiss sequence. This also gave everyone rooting for Watts that moment of connection where Keith might just subconsciously realize he may just have feelings for his bestie. It was the first step Hughes took in correcting what he believed to be a misstep with Pretty in Pink.
Some Kind of Wonderful was not a box office hit, only raking in approximately $18.5 million, but it was generally liked by critics. In particular, Mary Stuart Masterson’s performance was highly praised. The soundtrack is also a great aspect of the film, which is no surprise considering John Hughes’ love for music and how he incorporated it into his films.
The soundtrack did not necessarily feature any hits by major artists, but the songs were picked to complement each scene beautifully, especially the Lick the Tins version of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love” during the closing credits, as well as one song that is not found in the soundtrack but had to be in the movie, The Rolling Stones’ “Miss Amanda Jones. It is strange the song was not featured on the soundtrack, not only because it was played during the moment when all three main characters are getting ready for the big date, but also because the inspiration for all three character names came from The Rolling Stones.
Some Kind of Wonderful may not be the film audiences recognize the most when thinking of the various John Hughes teen films of the ’80s, but it stands as a great film depicting the struggles of young adults trying to find their identities amid the social hierarchy of high school.
One thing that sets this film apart is the strength of its women. Watts is simply a badass and does not conform no matter how much she is ridiculed by other girls, and Amanda never seems like an unattainable figure. She was a girl hiding her blue collar background to fit in, but eventually, discovers she does not want to be defined by any other person and decides to spend time figuring out who she is and wants to be.
Viewers also get an extremely gratifying part where the misfits get the last word at Hardy’s party. All in all, the film gives audiences what Pretty in Pink failed to, the characters everyone wants to get together actually have their happy ending, ending perfectly.