“Don’t go mistaking paradise for a pair of long legs.”
The scoop: 1987 PG-13, directed by Howard Deutch and starring Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson and Mary Stuart Masterson.
Tagline: Before they could stand together, they had to stand alone.
Summary Capsule: Pretty in Pink, only better.
Louise’s rating: “But if you ask me if I love him, I’d lie.” SPOILERS lie ahead.
Louise’s review: I’ve got a very personal and particular take on this movie: I believe that Some Kind of Wonderful is a short story, comprising the two-minute final scene, and we have to watch the previous hour and a half only so that we understand just how important this scene is. If they didn’t let us get to know the characters and what brought them to this point, we would fail to appreciate the overwhelming Rightness of the ending. You might guess from this theory that the emotional high point, the climax of the story, really is the minute before the credits roll. You might guess, and you would be right. No wrapping up loose ends, no waving goodbye from the bus, no ‘nineteen years later’, but a simple, “Ah, there we are. That’s right.” In fact, sometimes I just watch the last scene of SKOW just to cheer myself up and convince myself that love is Real and Out There.
Y’all might remember how much I hated An Officer and a Gentleman. I was particularly annoyed that its romantic-gesture ending was meant to wipe away all the cr*p that He had subjected She to over the course of the film – you know what, boys, sometimes you can’t just kiss away the tears! – and I have been trying to think why the ending to SKOW doesn’t ring as false, despite shallow similarities between the two (He finally comes to his senses and rushes to the patient and devoted She). It might be because the characters are teenagers, or because he’s been hung up on another woman and therefore ignoring our heroine rather than outright abusing her, or maybe because he gives her some earrings instead of his own hat. I don’t know. These characters are destined for each other.
Keith (Eric Stoltz) is a sensitive teen, rather shy and arty, and in a bit of a rut. He’s hung up on one thing – a beautiful redhead at his school – and he can’t summon up any enthusiasm for his future. Now, you might expect that these issues are enough for one character, but no, he is more complex. He’s a rather limp and rubbish best friend, a disrespectful son and not the most caring or tolerant of older brothers. Keith knows he has little chance with the coppertopped siren, Amanda Jones, so decides to change the game by getting himself put in the same detention as her. While it doesn’t help him at first, it does put some different cards in his hand in the form of new friends. New skinhead friends played by Elias Koteas. He starts to become more than just a passive observer of life at his high school, plucks up the courage to ask out Amanda, and then finds the inner power (suicidally brave?) to confront her jerk of a boyfriend Hardy Jenns (Craig Sheffer).
Keith’s best friend Watts is watching the whole time. Watts is a witty drummer rebel chick who dresses tough, but is very vulnerable to feeling neglected. She is in love with Keith, completely in love with him (insofar as it’s unrequited and they’re teenagers), but he is rather thick (boys can be, you know) and has failed to pick up the hints. The fact that she gets him to practice kissing with her and then actually comes on the date should have made it clear, really.
Oh, Mary Stuart Masterson just breaks your heart with her wee facial expressions in this film! She is just so vulnerable and sad and beautiful and androgynous-hot. She and Eric Stoltz have fine chemistry, and Watts and Keith are already so tender and loving with each other that it’s totally right that they become a couple. Their third act separation is actually painful to witness. The audience (well, me…) feels like another of their friends, just desperate for them to reconcile so we can all have fun together like we used to.
Hardy Jenns is a b**t**d. There’s no other word to describe him. He’s vile to his girlfriend and he’s vile to customer service workers and he’s vile to Keith. I want him to fight Steff from Pretty in Pink to establish who is the bigger b**t**d, and then maybe date Steff, and then maybe have adventures in which they go around being vile but get their comeuppance… yeah. Bit twisted, perhaps.
Amanda Jones is an interesting woman, played by Lea Thompson. She’s from the wrong side of the tracks (ah, class, that perennial John Hughes favourite. I circumvented this problem in my schooldays by going to private school. We assumed everyone was wealthy.) but has managed to get in with the super-rich kids through beauty and conformity to gender roles. However, her position is precarious. She’s just as vulnerable as Watts in her way – her friends can seemingly drop her just as easily. When she rejects Hardy, initially in favour of Keith but ultimately in favour of Self-Respect, she loses her hard-fought position. Until she makes her stand at the film’s end, she exists to be fought over by men, and she knows this about herself and regrets it. Keith accuses her of using him for a cruel joke, but actually, she puts up with a lot to gain her independence and he is in no position to criticize her.
Gosh it’s a good film. Highlights include the opening sequence, which is actually still, dare I say it, edgy; as well as the music sequences (come on, it’s John Hughes! There must be musical montages!), the realistic and stunningly sunlit industrial/cityscapes, and the moment where Duncan and Keith bond over their creative expressions. The threeway date is rather long to be a highlight, but individual parts of it are rather engaging, particularly the Hollywood Bowl.
Oh just see it! Unless for some reason ’80s teen romances don’t appeal to you, in which case… I don’t know. I give up.
Clare’s rating: Some Kind of Wonderful is great if for no other reason than because, unlike Pretty in Pink, it doesn’t feature Andrew McCarthy’s nightmare inducing crazy eyes.
Clare’s review: Analogy time folks. Some Kind of Wonderful is to Cinderella as Pretty in Pink is to the ugly stepsisters. Both films were directed by Howard Deutch and written by John Hughes and they both have basically the same story line, but Pretty in Pink gets all the attention and glory while Some Kind of Wonderful just toils away diligently with hardly any recognition paid to it at all, even though it’s actually a much better movie. I’m here to correct all that.
First, let’s dig into just how similar these two films really are.
Pretty in Pink is about a poor girl (Molly Ringwald) whose best friend is this kind of flamboyant and offbeat guy (John Cryer) who secretly is madly in love with her. For some reason that’s never fully fleshed out, poor girl falls for a rich boy at her school (Andrew McCarthy) who hangs with all the other rich kids but isn’t as much of an elitist jackass as they are. The leader of the elitist jackasses (James Spader), sensing that his friend is going outside of the rigid social structure of high school cliques, basically tries to shame rich boy into never going out with or developing a relationship with poor girl. Meanwhile, poor girl’s offbeat friend does everything in his power to convince poor girl that she can’t date rich boy because rich boy will never understand her the way offbeat friend does.
In the end rich boy stands poor girl up for the prom after promising to take her, she makes a hideous pink dress for herself to go to it in anyway, offbeat friend escorts her to the prom because he is apparently a spineless door mat, rich boy spies poor girl at the prom looking vaguely attractive, treats her crappily again but then apologizes, they kiss awkwardly in the parking lot and then apparently, even though he’s a d**k who doesn’t deserve her and she’s a moron who can’t see that offbeat best friend would make a much better boyfriend, they live happily ever after.
Some Kind of Wonderful is basically the same movie with different genders and a better ending. In it, poor guy (Eric Stoltz) is best friends with this tomboy drummer outcast chick (Mary Stuart Masterson) who’s secretly madly in love with him.
For some reason that’s never fully fleshed out, poor boy falls for a rich girl at his school (Lea Thompson) who hangs out with all the other rich kids but is herself, in fact, not particularly rich. Her elitist pig of a boyfriend (Craig Sheffer), sensing that she’s perhaps not as wealthy and piggish as he’d like her to be, treats her like ass and then dumps her. Rich girl, in an attempt to piss off piggish boyfriend, agrees to go on a date with poor boy not knowing the full extent of his devotion to her. Tomboy drummer outcast chick meanwhile, in a veiled attempt to help poor boy get ready for his big date, does her best to show him that she’s madly in love with him. Unfortunately, he doesn’t notice anything is out of the ordinary, even when she’s frenching him feverishly.
In the end, poor boy takes rich girl on a highly orchestrated date, they end up at elitist boyfriend’s rich kid keg party where rich girl basically tells all her friends to sit and spin and then tells poor boy that freeing herself from the agony of being popular and rich in high school has shown her that she needs to be on her own for a while to find her true self. She then hits poor boy over the head with a branch from the clue tree and advises him that anyone with eyes can see that drummer tomboy best friend is wildly in love with him. Poor boy chases after drummer girl, the share a really excellent and romantic kiss and they live happily (but probably very frugally) ever after.
If I had to pick one main reason I like Some Kind of Wonderful more than Pretty in Pink it would have to be the casting. I think Eric Stoltz and Mary Stuart Masterson are great together, while Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy have the on screen chemistry of two dead fish. Also, the subplot and comedic elements in SKOW are actually comedic and used to better effect to push the story along. Plus in SKOW the jerkweed rich guy who sucks actually gets what’s coming to him in a really great and satisfying scene while in Pretty in Pink he’s just left to be a weasley d**k for all eternity. Which, when added to how unsatisfactory I find Pretty in Pink‘s ending, basically spells its doom in my mind. Some Kind of Wonderful has more heart and much better acting. It’s just that simple.
I can’t say that I think either of these movies are high quality fare, but as teen romantic dramas from the ’80s go, if I had a gun to my head and had to pick only one to watch, I would definitely pick Some Kind of Wonderful over lots and lots of others.
- Eric Stoltz and Craig Sheffer went on to work together again in Sleep With Me.
- Lea Thompson has been married to Some Kind of Wonderful director Howard Deutch since 1989.
- Molly Ringwald was offered the role of Amanda Jones but refused it, ending her successful relationship with John Hughes.
- The three lead characters – Keith, Watts and Amanda Jones – are named in homage to the Rolling Stones.
- This soundtrack never took off the way lots of other John Hughes movie soundtracks did. There are a couple of decent tracks here and there, but for the most part it’s all so dated that I doubt anyone without a nostalgic attachment to the movie would really find it all that fantastic.
- Check out a young Candace Cameron (DJ in Full House) as Keith’s little sister Cindy Nelson.
- Ah, Eric Stoltz, how come you weren’t bigger? You were in this and Mask, and then we didn’t see you again until Little Women (were you pretending to be British in Little Women?) and then we didn’t see you again until you turned up in an episode of Will & Grace? Seriously Eric Stoltz, where is your career now? Email me!
- The Hollywood Bowl was the scene of another memorable date in Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel’s Yes Man.
Duncan: I’m here to kick your ass, and you know it, and everybody here knows it, and above all, you deserve it. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that this party is about to become a historical fact.
Keith Nelson: Well, I like art, I work in a gas station, my best friend is a tomboy. These things don’t fly too well in the American high school.
Watts: It must be a drag to be a slave to the male sex drive.
Keith: It’s not just sex.
Watts: Oh, you want to start a book club with her?
Amanda Jones: I’d rather be with someone for the wrong reasons then be alone for the right.
Keith Nelson: You can’t tell a book by its cover.
Watts: No, but you can tell how much it’s gonna cost you.
Watts: Don’t go mistaking paradise for a pair of long legs.
Mia: I’ve just never seen a girl wearing boys underpants before.
Watts: Have you ever seen a girl with a drumstick shoved up her nose?
Mia: Oh, is that some kind of a threat?
Watts: It’s some kind of a warning.
Laura Nelson: Any fool can get into college. Only a select few can say the same about Amanda Jones.
If you enjoyed this movie, try:
- Pretty in Pink
- The Breakfast Club
- She’s All That