For the past two and a half weeks, I’ve been reviewing, in chronological order, some of the best, worst, most memorable, and most forgettable teen films ever made. We started with two films from 1946 and now, we find ourselves coming to the close of the decade that is often considered to be the Golden Age of teen films, the 1980s. For our 44th entry in Back to School, we take a quick look at 1987’s Some Kind of Wonderful.
Why a quick look?
Because, quite frankly, there’s not that much to say about it.
Some Kind of Wonderful is a story about an artistic, lower-class misfit who has a crush on one of the popular kids. The only problem is that the popular kid is being cruelly manipulated by one of the richest students in school. The misft also has a best friend who is totally in love with the misfit but the misft has somehow failed to notice this. Eventually, the misfit does get to date the popular kid. Both the popular kid and the misft are given a hard time by the members of their collective clique but they still manage to go on one truly amazing date. Finally, the film ends with a big show down at a party and two people kissing outside.
If it does, that probably means that you’ve seen Pretty In Pink. Some Kind of Wonderful is basically a remake of Pretty In Pink, the only difference being that the genders have been reversed and that the film is a lot more heavy-handed (and predictable) when it comes to examining class differences. (Not coincidentally, both films were written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch and it must be said that when it comes to Some Kind of Wonderful, it’s easy to feel that both of them were simply going through the motions.) The misfit is an aspiring painted named Keith (Eric Soltz). His best friend is a drummer named Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson). The object of Keith’s affection is Amanda (Lea Thompson). Unfortunately, even though she lives in the same poor neighborhood as Keith and Watts, Amanda is dating the rich (and therefore, evil) Hardy (Craig Sheffer).
When Keith finally works up the nerve to ask out Amanda, he doesn’t realize that she’s just broken up with Hardy and is on the rebound. Watts is skeptical, telling Keith, “Don’t go mistaking paradise for a pair of long legs,” and I’m just going to admit that, as the proud owner of a pair of long legs, that line really annoyed me. I guess it’s because I’ve known people like Watts, who always act like there’s something wrong with wanting to look good.
With the help of Watts and Duncan (Elias Koteas), the school bully that Keith managed to befriend in detention, Keith takes Amanda out on an amazing date and shows her a wonderful portrait that he’s painted of her. At the same time, Hardy — angry because someone from a lower class is now dating his ex-girlfriend — starts to plot his own revenge…
There are some positive things about Some Kind of Wonderful. There are two really good and memorable scenes that, momentarily, manage to elevate the entire film. There’s the moment when Keith shows Amanda the painting. And then there’s the erotically charged scene in which Keith and Watts practice how to kiss. Koteas, Thompson, and Masterson all gives good performances. Eric Stoltz is, at times, a bit too intense to sell some of the film’s more comedic moments but overall, he’s well-cast here. (In fact, the only performance that I really didn’t care for was Craig Sheffer’s. Sheffer one-dimensional villain only served to remind me of how good James Spader was in Pretty In Pink.)
And yet, there’s just something missing from Some Kind of Wonderful, something that keeps this film from being … well, wonderful. I have to wonder if I had never seen Pretty In Pink, would I have thought more of Some Kind of Wonderful? Perhaps. Whereas Pretty In Pink was full of the type of small details and clever moments that make it a joy to watch and rewatch, Some Kind of Wonderful is one of those films that you can watch once and enjoy it without ever necessarily feeling the need to ever watch it again.