I remember a stray Friday night in my preteen years roaming around our neighborhood Blockbuster with my family. For all you youngins out there, Blockbuster is a place where people used to go and pick out one movie to watch because they couldn’t just look it up on their computer or smartphone…okay rant over. I saw the cover for Some Kind of Wonderful and showed it to my dad – he nodded and said, “Yeah, you’d like it.”
At this point, I had already seen the other John Hughes staples – Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles. Although I loved them, once I saw Some Kind of Wonderful, it blew them all out of the water. My twelve year-old self related to Keith (Eric Stoltz) more than I related to any of Molly Ringwald’s characters.
If you’ve never seen Some Kind of Wonderful, here’s the 411. The film was made in 1987 and was written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch (who, at the time, had only directed Pretty in Pink). It is said that Hughes wrote the film partly because he was upset about how Pretty in Pink turned out. Both films follow the ‘best friend secretly in love archetype’ but the way they end is, shall we say, DIFFERENT.
Some Kind of Wonderful follows Keith (Eric Stoltz), a quiet artist-type, and his best friend Watts (Mary Stuart-Masterson), a tomboy with a bit of a crush. *Cough Cough* Meanwhile, Keith becomes interested in Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson), a beautiful and popular girl at school. Class wars and teen drama ensues. Oh, and all that 80’s stuff too!
Here are just a few reasons why I’m still in love with Some Kind of Wonderful‘s angsty magic:
The cast is EVERYTHING in this film. Eric Stoltz, who is famously known to have been the original Marty McFly in Back to the Future before being replaced by Michael J. Fox, plays Keith, a loner artist with a big heart. Apparently, filming was a bit contentious as director Howard Deutch and Stoltz did not get along. Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine the film without Stoltz’s quiet charm.
Lea Thompson, known for her role in Back to the Future and more recently, Switched at Birth, wasn’t particularly interested in the part. Howard the Duck, which she had starred in, had just been released. It was one of the biggest flops in film history. Stoltz apparently biked up Laurel Canyon to give her the script and urge her to play the role. And good thing she did, because she sorta kinda met her husband on the project, one Howard Deutch. That’s right, folks. She married the director. Like Stoltz, Lea was understated and obviously gorgeous – the perfect fit for Amanda Jones.
Mary Stuart-Masterson was quite the revelation as Watts. She could play tough, while also exposing her vulnerability. With her short hair and don’t care attitude, she was pretty much my preteen hero, or heroine, as it were!
The perfect casting extends into supporting characters. Elias Koteas is wonderful as the bully-turned-friend. He gives what could have been a throw away part, personality, and makes Duncan memorable and truly hilarious!
Maddie Corman was perfect as Keith’s sister Laura. I’m embarrassed to say I related to her character a bit too much – she was a bit of a tattler. But, she did have some great one-liners. Her story is very interesting. She was a teenage actress and she went in to audition for the part in Some Kind of Wonderful during her mother’s battle with cancer. Knowing her mother was dying, she lied and told her she had gotten the part when, of course, she didn’t know that. She, of course, did get it and she’s brilliant.
Craig Sheffer is also wonderful as Hardy Jenns, the villain of our tale. He’s Amanda’s asshole boyfriend. He cheats on her, treats her like dirt, but he’s still kinda charming.
You also might notice little Candace Cameron Bure as Keith’s youngest sister. Not a big part, but definitely some memorable moments…
John Hughes wrote an amazing script. It wasn’t just filled with brilliant one-liners, though, of course, it had those! Hughes had an amazing talent for writing teenagers. He didn’t talk down to the audience and as such, his films still hold up today. Obviously, they’re very rooted in the time they were made, but when you think of the other films and filmmakers he inspired, it’s remarkable.
Additionally, I loved how he wrote the Amanda Jones character. She’s working class, beautiful, insecure, popular, sweet. In other words, she’s complex, like a REAL PERSON.
The parent dynamics were also great. Now, obviously, this is not new ground teen movie-wise, but I love the conflict between Keith and his dad. Keith’s dad wants him to go to college; Keith has different priorities.
The soundtrack is incredible and inextricable from the film. Like Hughes’ other films, the soundtrack serves as another character, giving the characters and their world life! Two of my favorites from the soundtrack are below: the March Violets cover of “Miss Amanda Jones” and Lick the Tins’ cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
Like most films of this kind, the end is a couple getting together. It’s about the journey getting there. And what a fun, angsty journey it is!
While there is truth in it, I found that the best friend trope is really just that, a trope. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy it. I just don’t think it’s as real as my preteen self did. The ending of this film ALWAYS gets me. I cry happy tears, cause I can’t NOT.
The Nostalgia Factor
I saw this movie as a preteen and it made a huge impression on me. Obviously, I wasn’t born until 1992, so this was before my time. But, for all its flaws, I love this film unabashedly.
If a film still resonates, has it really aged?
A few years back, when I had just moved to Los Angeles, I remember seeing Some Kind of Wonderful on the American Cinematheque’s schedule. Unfortunately, I had no car that summer and also no friends willing to accompany me. I still haven’t forgiven myself for missing it. Lea Thompson and Howard Deutch were both there!
Their daughter, Zoey Deutch is now a star in her own right – however, it’s clear, having Lea and Howard as parents, she was born for this! She recently starred in Richard Linklater’s last film, Everybody Wants Some.
The film captured the awkwardness of romance in high school. No doubt that its zingers definitely inspired the too-sophisticated dialogue of Dawson’s Creek which came a decade later. If you’re looking for an angsty, romantic, Saturday night watch, Some Kind of Wonderful is one of the best and certainly one of my all time favorites!
Vintage trailer below: