Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Taglines: Before they could stand together, they had to stand alone.

The film is set against the strict social hierarchy of an American public high school. Blue collar mechanic Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz) and his tomboyish friend Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) aspire to improve their social standing. When Keith asks out the most popular and attractive girl in school, Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson), Watts realizes her feelings for him are much deeper. Watts tells Keith that Amanda will appreciate a good kisser, and shows Keith how to kiss, whereupon Keith is confused by his romantic feelings for both girls. He later uses his college fund, with Watts in tow, and selects a pair of earrings for Amanda.

Meanwhile, Hardy Jenns (Craig Sheffer), Amanda’s ex-boyfriend from a wealthy neighborhood, plots trouble for Keith by inviting him and Amanda to a party after their date. Keith finds out about the plot, believing Amanda to be part of it, but goes ahead with the date anyway, spending the rest of his college money on an expensive dinner and roping in Watts (as chauffeur) to help make the date special. At Jenns’s party, the timely arrival of other “misfits” saves Keith from taking a beating. Keith tells Jenns he is “over” her and Amanda slaps Jenns’s face.

Some Kind of Wonderful is a 1987 American romance film starring Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson, Craig Sheffer, John Ashton, Elias Koteas, Molly Hagan, Maddie Corman, Candace Cameron Bure and Laura Leigh Hughes. It is one of several successful teen dramas written by John Hughes in the 1980s, although it was directed by Howard Deutch rather than Hughes.

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Film Review for Some Kind of Wonderful

JOHN HUGHES may be the only grown man in America capable of shaping an entire film, quite seriously, around a question of who will take whom to the prom. In films like ”Sixteen Candles” and ”The Breakfast Club” (which he wrote and directed) and ”Pretty in Pink” (which he wrote and produced), Mr. Hughes’s preoccupation with the most microscopic teen-age problems has made him king of an entire genre, however inconsequential and small.

But at long last, the John Hughes method has paid off. ”Some Kind of Wonderful,” produced and written by Mr. Hughes and directed (as ”Pretty in Pink” was) by Howard Deutch, has a much wider appeal than its predecessors. It has a light touch, a disarming cast, a well-developed sense of humor and a lot of charm. It also shows off, even better than the earlier films have, Mr. Hughes’s keen understanding of the world his young characters inhabit and the ways in which they might behave. What would a ninth-grader do if her father poked his head into the classroom one day and said, ”Hi, honey,” in front of all her friends? That’s simple. She’d scream.

”Some Kind of Wonderful,” which opens today at the Orpheum and other theaters, is a much-improved, recycled version of the ”Pretty in Pink” story. In both these films, an uncool, unpopular teen-ager from the wrong side of town becomes fixated on someone rich, heedless and good-looking, ignoring a best friend of the opposite sex whose attentions are sincere. In this case, it is Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz) who tells his father, ”I like art, I’m working at a gas station, my best friend is a tomboy. These things don’t fly too high in the American high school.” Yet Keith, outcast that he is, has developed a crush on Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson), who takes her name from the busy little princess of the Rolling Stones song.

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Keith’s best friend, and the one who really cares for him, is the tough, boyish Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), who turns up in men’s underwear and dogtags in one locker-room scene. Watts is prepared to sit by stoically while Keith makes a fool of himself over Amanda, occasionally offering the kind of hard-boiled, colloquial advice Mr. Hughes writes so well. ”Chicks like her have one thing on their mind, and you don’t make enough of it to matter to her,” Watts says. When Keith counters that you can’t tell a book by a cover, she points out, ”Yeah, but you can tell how much it’s gonna cost.”

Keith’s friendship with Watts, his home life with bewildered parents and precocious siblings, his standing among his schoolmates – all these things are established by Mr. Hughes and Mr. Deutch in a funny and involving way. It may well be that Mr. Hughes’s work, which seems so much more controlled and less manic this time, is shown off to best advantage when filtered through a second party. In any case, ”Some Kind of Wonderful” progresses comfortably and affectingly until it reaches what ought to be a dead end. As in ”Pretty in Pink,” Mr. Hughes gives his central character an impossible choice between two suitors, each of whom is made to seem appealing. But this film segues easily into near-fantasy, with an ending right out of a fairy tale.

Though parts of ”Some Kind of Wonderful” are sketchy – there isn’t much explanation of how Watts became so aggressively boyish, for example – the principals’ acting fills in the gaps. Mr. Stoltz, who was seen (or not quite seen) as the facially deformed Rocky Dennis in ”Mask,” emerges as a handsome, self-possessed actor with a clear, steady gaze. If he doesn’t seem precisely the school pariah, he does make Watts’s crush understandable. And Mary Stuart Masterson turns Watts, who for all her black leather is something of a stock character, into a figure ennobled by her fierce longing.

It’s a touching and dignified performance, so much so that Miss Thompson’s more superficial Amanda need not be seen as a villainess. The three leads work well together, particularly in the long sequence that has Keith and Amanda going on a carefully planned dream date, with Watts acting as their chauffeur. As the other two sit embracing on the stage of the Hollywood Bowl, with Watts watching miserably from a seat in the rear (the place is otherwise deserted), the film creates a perfect embodiment of every adolescent’s nightmare.

Some of the smaller roles are also very well done, in the film’s typically exuberant style. Maddie Corman is amusingly brash as Keith’s incorrigible kid sister. And Elias Koteas, as the hood who sits next to Keith in detention one day, has a chance to compare artistic efforts with the story’s hero. ”That,” he says, pointing to an original drawing, ”is what my girlfriend would look like without skin.”

Some Kind of Wonderful Movie Poster (1987)

Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

Directed by: Howard Deutch
Starring: Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson, Craig Sheffer, John Ashton, Elias Koteas, Molly Hagan, Maddie Corman, Candace Cameron Bure, Laura Leigh Hughes
Screenplay by: John Hughes
Production Design by: Josan F. Russo
Cinematography by: Jan Kiesser
Film Editing by: Bud S. Smith, M. Scott Smith
Costume Design by: Marilyn Vance
Set Decoration by: Linda Spheeris
Art Direction by: Gregory Pickrell
Music by: Stephen Hague, John Musser
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: February 27, 1987