Some Kind of Wonderful

movie still

Director: Howard Deutch
Screenwriter: John Hughes
Starring: Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Craig Sheffer, Lea Thompson, Elias Koteas
Release details: Paramount, USA 1987, 92mins
Full details: IMDb
Genre: Eighties teen comedy
Rating: 8 out of 10

Pretty in Pink, released two years earlier, was such a success that eighties teen movie king John Hughes decided to give the love triangle in that film a bit of a gender shift. This time, we get arty outsider Keith (Stoltz) in love with the school's most popular girl, Amanda Jones (Thompson), not realising that his best friend and fellow outsider, Watts (Masterson), is in love with him.

But, that's not to say they're the same film. Oh no! There are many more subtle levels to Some Kind of Wonderful than there were to Pretty in Pink, although I accept that this is not a difficult task. The main advantage that Some Kind of Wonderful has is the absence of Andrew McCarthy, surely the weakest - certainly the wettest - of the Brat Pack leading men. Eric Stoltz is not rugged by comparison, but at least he doesn't do that lip-pursing, eye-rolling face that McCarthy resorts to when required to show emotion.

But, enough of the limitations of Andrew McCarthy's doe-eyed acting technique. Artist Keith has decided that he can be accepted within the confines of the modern American high school if only he can engineer a date with Amanda Jones (her character is always referred to by both names, so that when they play a remake of the Rollling Stones hit Miss Amanda Jones later on, we're all quite clear who's being referenced). To this end, he enrols the unwilling help of his tomboy best friend, Watts, who is so overtly in love with him, you wonder how sensitive Keith can be as an artist if he's missed something this obvious right in front of his face:

Keith: You can't judge a book by its cover.
Watts: Yeah, but you can sure tell how much it's gonna cost.

Also helping out is school bully, Duncan (Koteas), who Keith meets in detention and whose sole purpose appears to be to provide the comic relief in the film. Of course, Amanda already has a boyfriend - nasty, sneering rich kid, Hardy Jenns (Sheffer), whose life revolves around looking good, cheating on Amanda and keeping the school social class system in order.

To say it's formulaic would be an understatement, but the script is slightly better and more sardonic than other Hughes efforts . Okay, so it requires a major suspension of disbelief, mainly because everyone looks way too old to be in high school, but there's a couple of decent performances lurking beneath the formula. The cynical tone of Keith's little sister (Maddie Corman) is a welcome relief from Keith's earnest demeanour. And Masterson is much spikier than other eighties teen leads, bringing a touch of dysfunctional believability to a world that otherwise doesn't exist outside of John Hughes' mind.

Although it was one of the last and one of the less popular eighties teen comedies, it's the perfect example of that bubblegum genre. And, on its own very undemanding terms, it succeeds better than many others starring bigger Brat Pack names.

Buy it

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