I know, I know. John Hughes two weeks in a row. This one was described to me by my coworkers and was on cable, so I had it on the DVR. Unfortunately the DVR ate Smithereens, which I was much more interested in seeing. I just bumped it to the top of the queue, so it’ll show up here sometime. Some Kind of Wonderful is one of those 80’s rom-coms named after a famous song, so we can be subjected to a bad cover of it. One of the more infuriating things about the 80’s were the mediocre covers that kept popping up once a one-hit wonder was expected to make a follow-up album.
Thankfully the song this movie is named after doesn’t appear in it at all. That’s one hint that you have something good here. We begin with Eric Stoltz as Keith, one of the high school outsiders who works at a gas station when he’s not painting and hanging around with his tomboy mechanic pal, Watts (played by Mary Stuart Masterson). Keith is, like many of us in the 80’s were, infatuated with Lea Thompson, who plays the high school hottie, Amanda Jones. Yes, she’s named after the Rolling Stones song. At least Watts isn’t named Jagger! (though she’s named after Charlie Watts, the Stones’ drummer).
Amanda already has a rich boyfriend of course, a douche named Hardy. Should have been named Stiffy, since he’s a total dick and gets his comeuppance. He notices Keith being all moon-eyed after his girl, and humiliates him at the gas station, but resourceful Keith steals his dipstick in a fitting scene of deep Freudian implications. The film bounces between scenes of school and Keith at home with his little twat of a teen sister, his oblivious mom, his weird little sister, and his blue-collar Dad who hounds him to get into college. While paper-thin, they’re decent characters and don’t bog the movie down. It helps that Dad is John Ashton, aka Marvin Dorfler from Midnight Run.
There’s also a subplot with Duncan (Elias Koteas) the skinhead who Watts & Keith meet in detention. He’s menacing at first, but they bond over their blue collar backgrounds somehow. He’s one of the more entertaining parts of the movie, because he gets introduced as a possible bully, but then he ends up being the comic relief. The brunt of the movie is Keith drooling after Amanda, who uses him as an excuse to drop her douchebag boyfriend. The movie makes it painfully obvious that Watts has a serious crush on her friend Keith, to the point that she shows him how to kiss for his first big date with Amanda.
The big payoff is that Hard-on is throwing a big party, and he invites Amanda and Keith, as a gesture of good faith. It’s pretty obvious that he’s setting Keith up to get his ass kicked by his rich jock douchebag posse, and even Keith knows it. His infatuation blinds him. The movie plays her up to be a muse, but she’s actually as shallow as Watts tells him she is. She may not be a bad person in the end, but we’re not given much to like her for except her knockout looks.
Keith has a master plan that makes little sense. For the big party, he spends all his college savings on a suit, and diamond earrings for Amanda, since she threw the pair Hardy gave her back at him. First he takes her to the art museum, which Duncan’s Dad is the security guard for. He’s hung up some creepy paintings he’s done of her. He makes Watts chauffeur them around in an Rolls they fix up, to humiliate her apparently. And he gives her the earrings in a beautiful moonlit amphitheater, telling her that she owes him nothing for them. That he’s giving her his future so she won’t have to date guys like Hardy to get earrings, or some other crap. This is really where the movie falls apart, as there’s no real payoff about whether you’re supposed to stick with your own kind, or if you shouldn’t idolize the beautiful people, or if you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Maybe Watts was right when she said that maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can tell what it’s going to cost you.
The finale is at Hard-on’s party, where he humiliates Amanda by calling her used goods, and provokes Keith into a fight. Of course he won’t fight him himself, he tells his nameless douche pals to drag him outside and beat him up. That’s when Duncan & the burnout crew show up as expected. They don’t wreck the house, but they make it clear that if anyone’s going to get their scrote stomped, Hardy goes first. Keith and Amanda leave peacefully, and she gives him the earrings back, because she knows he should be giving them to Watts.
Watts is already walking down the street crying, looking like the Legend of Billie Jean in her cute tomboy haircut. Though she never seemed the type for jewelry, she happily puts them on and all is forgiven, teaching us that De Beers must have paid John Hughes to write this ending. Even a quirky tomboy’s heart is melted by a diamond! He’s so sorry he treated you like shit and made you drive him and his crush around like a servant! Lesson noted.
The movie is decent fun and has a good soundtrack, wisely using the Rolling Stones original version of “Amanda Jones” before using a cover of it. It also ends with the excellent cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” by Lick the Tins, a band that never made it big over here. Before you track down their CD, the version on the soundtrack was re-mixed for the film.
I enjoyed the movie overall, but it definitely lacked something. Maybe because it wasn’t directed by John Hughes, just written. Also, it was pumped out after the studio made him change the ending of Pretty in Pink. Originally, Molly Ringwald ended up with her friend, instead of the rich boy. That must have pissed off Hughes a lot, because he wanted to make this one with Molly Ringwald as well. She refused, and there went her career. Even after baring her breasts in Malicious, she was relegated to the B’s. And yes, if you click that link, you will be fired.
I think part of the problem is that it never really figures out what its about; it’s kind of a rom-com, but it wants to comment on class relations, parental authority, and high school cliques but it never really focuses on anything for too long. There are some scenes where Lea Thompson’s character gets out of detention by vamping the teacher, and later a female teacher essentially calls her a whore; Keith buys a pair of earrings with his college money and asks his father when his life will be his own, but maybe he’s too dumb to run it. Tomboy M-S-M gets called a lesbian and hassled a lot, and she ends up with the other outsider. But it’s not as powerful as let’s say, The Breakfast Club, where the stereotypes all connect for a moment before slipping back to their cliques.
So, that makes it a lesser 80’s film with some memorable moments, saved by the eye candy of the female leads and the funny performance of Elias Koteas.
Quotability Rating: Very Low
Cheese Factor: Medium
Could it be made today? Probably has been
Gratuitous Boobs: Zero
High Points: Soundtrack, Elias Koteas, 2 hot lead gals
Low Points: Confused plot, Eric Stoltz forced to play a dumb-ass