Some Kind Of Wonderful
There is nothing like a good teen angst story to drive a movie. The audience has people who are either currently teens or at least remember being one so there is instant identification with the main characters. While this theme is still extremely popular there have been many drastic changes in the genre of the last couple of decades. Now the combination of teen boy and teen girl can mean only one thing; sex. Groups of teenaged boys are usually looking for drugs, alcohol and girls willing to have sex with them. Usually the first two items listed help procure the third. If a film dares to deal with such things as emotions they are typically relegated to the Lifetime Channel and branded a chick flick. There was a golden age for the teen angst film and it was the eighties. At the head of the pack of this genre, ruling the decade was John Hughes. He had one film after another that galvanized the eighties; setting trends not only in films but in popular culture. The film under consideration here, ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ was but one in a long list of these films that made the eighties one memorable decade for movie fans. If you were a teen back then this film spoke to you on a personal level. If you were past that age, as I was, it was an endearing memory of your teen years. Either way the film is back on DVD. Now you have an opportunity to go back in time to the days of big hair, strange fashions and pop music.
Directing this story was a veteran of the wonderful world of John Hughes, Howard Deutch. This was only his second feature film but he was responsible for the previous Hughes hit ‘Pretty in Pink’. Many have stated that this is pretty much a clone of that script and lacks originality. I have to disagree strongly. Sure the archetype characters are all there and it is a romance but instead of from the female perspective ass presented in ‘Pink’ this one looks at the agonies of first love through the male point of view. There have been reports that Hughes was not happy with the way ‘Pink’ ended; having the girl fall for the upscale boy. This was a fresh chance with Deutch to let the working class kid win out in the end. Class struggle may seem out of place in a teen flick but Deutch knows how to direct for this situation. For teens, especially in the eighties there was a big distinction between the ‘haves’ and have nots’. This was a time that materialism was rebounding from the hippy days of the sixties and seventies. Flash was in and it was hard for a teen with limited financial means to compete with the ones with well to do parents. Deutch’s direction here speaks to this and an entire generation listened. This was also an important film for Deutsch on a personal level. She started a romance with the star, Lea Thompson, who was eleven years his junior. They married two years after this film and have been together ever since. The big selling point of the film is how it takes its time weaving the romance. So many flicks now have the characters jumping into bed or any nearby suitable substitute that there is no real romance involved. The whole film is a lead up to a single kiss. Back when I was a teen just holding a girl’s hand was considered something special. There were no ‘friends with benefits’. This movie is a heart warming tale of a boy, his female best friend and the girl he thinks he is in love with. Some may look at this as corny but it is nice to go back in time to an age where teen romance was tentative and awkward. Deutch paces this film at a good clip. He moves from introducing the characters and basic premise right into the action, as it were. He is an economical director who doesn’t waste a lot of time or film.
This is one of only two films in the John Hughes teen angst canon that he did not take on the writing and direction. It is fitting that Deutch took on the direction while Hughes provided the script here. This is the mirror image of ‘Pink’ and there is something about the men taking on the same behind the scenes rolls in both films. One thing that leaps out at you with a Hughes script is the way he presents his characters. They are realistic teens with self doubts, hopes and dreams. They are normal kids just trying to navigate the treacherous waters of high school. He also had an eye for young talent. So many of the young actors in his movies are still going strong in their careers; a testament to how Hughes was able to find the right actor for their parts. Hughes seems able to connect to the teens in the audience in a special way. Although most of his films, this one included, is very dated as an eighties movie it has lasting power. The hair styles may change, the music certainly has changed but the emotions remain the same year after year. Young love is something that is always the same and Hughes made a career but showing it in a realistic, gentle fashion.
The film starts with a shot of drumsticks working the cymbals. The person holding the sticks is Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson). She is from a working class home and has always been a tomboy. Her hair is cut extremely short and she dresses in shirts, paints and her ever present fingerless leather gloves. For as long as she can remember her best friend has always been Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz). He is also a blue collar guy more comfortable in a tee shirt and jeans than a suit and tie. We also get a glimpse of upscale teen Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson) making out with her boyfriend Hardy James (Craig Sheffer). Deutch visualizes the wrong side of the tracks motif by having Keith walking on train tracks, the train approaching and waiting until the last second to move to one side. As he walks along he sees Amanda and hardy kissing. He has always had a crush on her. When she eventually breaks up with her boyfriend Keith sees it as his opportunity to move in and ask Amanda for a date. While Watts has always just seen Keith as a friend she begins to realize that she is in love with him. Keith could never compete with Hardy. While Keith has to work under cars to make a few bucks Hardy drives around in a sports car. Watts tries to remain Keith’s friend as he pursues Amanda but finds herself increasingly jealous of the girl.
This is another installment in Paramount’s ‘I Love the Eighties’ release set. The film is one of five chosen as ones that truly helped to define that decade. There are several DVD releases of the film already out there. This is basically the same version as previously released as a special edition a few years back. The video is a re-mastered anamorphic 1.85: 1 transfer. There is some grain to the video but it is much clearer than the original DVD release. The audio is in Dolby 5.1 but is mostly in the front speakers with the rear speakers and sub woofer under utilized. Just remember that this film is over twenty years old and back then surround sound was not common. This is a classic of its day and holds up extremely well. It is something that you can enjoy with the whole family.