Peter’s Retro Reviews: Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

July 7, 2011

Some Kind of Wonderful Movie posterby Peter Nielsen

It’s confession-time again! Some Kind of Wonderful is one of those movies that I have seen more times than I can remember and yet I never tire of it. Every time I couldn’t decide on what movie to watch or if I just wanted something familiar to relax with,  this was my choice. I know every line and love all the characters in it. This is one of the best to spring from John Hughes’ wonderful mind and he wrote some fantastic movies like for instance Pretty in Pink,  Breakfast Club or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The director is Howard Deutch who also directed the aforementioned Pretty in Pink and also The Great Outdoors.

The 80’s seemed to be a great decade for teen comedies,  wouldn’t you agree?

Keith Nelson is a shy middle-class kid who likes art and works at a gas-station in his spare time and is kind of an outsider. His best friend is a tomboy named Watts who plays the drums. These things don’t really make him very popular in school. He’s interested in the beautiful Amanda Jones who unfortunately hangs with the popular crowd. Her boyfriend is rich-boy/dirt-bag Hardy Jenns,  played perfectly by Craig Sheffer (Night Breed,  A River Runs Through It). They sometimes sneak of the school grounds to… well… hmm,  how do I put this delicately? To bump ugly… do the horizontal mambo… to have sex,  dammit!

Kissing lessons...

Kissing lessons…

One time Amanda is caught as she returns and gets detention. Keith sees this as an opportunity to get to know her better,  so he pulls the fire-alarm,  which gets him thrown into detention. What he doesn’t know is that Amanda uses her charm on one of her teachers and gets off with a warning instead. So,  when Keith happily arrives the next morning, there’s no Amanda in sight, only a bunch of other “delinquents”. Among them is Duncan, the punk skinhead, with whom Keith strikes up a friendship. They both like art and when Keith successfully manages to ask Amanda out on a date, Duncan approves with the words:  “Anytime someone from the outside lifts a woman from a gwat like Jenns,  we can all find cause to rejoice”. I love that line!

Hardy Jenns looking mighty full of himself.

Hardy Jenns looking mighty full of himself.

Elias Koteas is hilarious in this role and has some really funny moments. Mr. Koteas has had roles in such diverse movies as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,  The Prophecy and Tucker: The Man and his Dream to name a few. Keith is played by the talented Eric Stoltz who did a fantastic job in Mask alongside Cher and Sam Elliott. He was also in Fast Times at Ridgemont High,  Pulp Fiction and The Prophecy. The big night is approaching and Keith gets everything ready and pulls his hard-earned college-money from the bank to pay for it all.

This does NOT please his father,  played by John Ashton from Beverly Hills Cop 1 & 2 and Midnight Run,  and they have a huge fight. He argues that Keith should go to college so he wouldn’t have to work at a gas-station all his life. Keith on the other hand says that the college-dream was never his in the first place. He wants to go on this date to prove to himself that he’s as good as everyone else. Even after he finds out that the reason the scorned former boyfriend,  Hardy Jenns,  has asked them to come to a party that evening,  is to beat him up,  he still wants to go through with it. He needs to take a stand against the “upper class” so to speak. Which he does,  in the end… with the help of Duncan and his friends.

Duncan being a bully...

Duncan being a bully…

Now,  let me introduce the two girls, Amanda and Watts. Amanda is the middle-class girl who got tired of seeing her rich friends getting everything they wanted and “turned” against her own beliefs. She’s basically a sweet girl who just took a wrong turn at one point in her life. Leah Thompson,  who plays Amanda,  is perhaps also known for her roles in Red Dawn,   Howard the Duck, Space Camp and of course Back to the Future 1, 2 & 3. The tomboy Watts is played by Mary Stuart Masterson from Chances Are,  Benny & Joon and Fried Green Tomatoes. She’s been Keith’s best friend for a long time and is secretly in love with him,  so his interest in Amanda of course breaks her heart.

Art lovers

Art lovers

In one scene she asks him if he thinks he’s ready for the date and if he thinks he can deliver the kiss that kills if asked to. At first he’s all sure of himself,  but gets insecure when Watts pushes him. She volunteers to “train” him and that first kiss is absolutely electrifying. She has also volunteered to chauffeur the couple on their date and it’s heartbreaking to see her frustration and pain when seeing the two enjoying themselves. Some Kind of Wonderful is a good drama as well as a great comedy and never gets mushy even though the ending left me a little misty-eyed.

Yeah, that’s right… and it also left me with a big silly grin on my face. Even after multiple viewings,  it still gets me. It’s well written, well played and well directed! There are so many little funny scenes throughout it,  like when the Nelson’s are seated around the table eating, the scenes with Duncan or the ones with Ray,  the young man who’s infatuated with Watts. Hilarious! And as so many of these teen comedies from the 80’s,  it has an amazing soundtrack. Lick the Tins’ version of Elvis Presley’s old hit Can’t Help Falling in Love is great.

So,  until next time my friends…


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