Some Kind of Wonderful is often described as a gender reversal of Pretty in Pink. That’s not terribly surprising given both movies were written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch. There is also the fact that the premises are pretty similar as well. Both are about school misfits falling for the popular student while their best friend secretly pines for them. But it’s Pretty in Pink that tends to get the attention and love, while Some Kind of Wonderful is often shunted to the side. That may be because Pretty in Pink featured some Brat Pack regulars in Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy (both of whom were also offered roles in Some Kind of Wonderful), or maybe it’s because Pretty in Pink was released a year before Some Kind of Wonderful. In any case, it’s kind of a shame that there’s not more love for Some Kind of Wonderful because I think it’s the superior movie.
Keith (Eric Stolz) is a senior in high school with no real clear plan for college, despite the pressure put on him by his dad. He works in an auto garage and is best friends with a girl named Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), a tomboy who loves to play drums and is secretly in love with him. Oblivious to her affections, Keith finds himself attracted to Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson), a beautiful girl whose popularity stems from dating the handsome and wealthy Hardy Jenns (Craig Sheffer), who also happens to be a jerk who cheats on her, and often. Heck, he’s not even slick about it, hitting on girls right in front of Amanda, and then gaslighting her to make her feel guilty for not trusting him.
Like most wealthy a-holes in ’80’s teen dramedies, Hardy Jenns not only has the proper jerky name (“Hardy Jenns with two n’s”), but he has perfectly coifed floofy hair and a wide variety of blazers in various colors. He’s full of cocky entitlement and not much else, which makes you wonder what Amanda saw in him in the first place – other than the nice car and social acceptance that would come with dating him. Maybe that was all she needed.
On the other hand, Keith, though car-less, is earnest and sweet, seemingly the perfect guy to help Amanda realize she’s too good for the shallow, mean spirited popular crowd she’s been running with. He’s also smitten enough with Amanda that he paints her portrait (okay, a little creepy), and purposely pulls a fire alarm to get detention when he thinks he’ll be sharing it with her, unaware that she’s used her female charms, in a rather icky scene where she flirts with the assistant vice principal, to get out of it. Not all is lost though, because Keith shares detention with a handful of troublemakers, including resident bad boy Duncan (a hilarious Elias Koteas). Their budding friendship, and some of Duncan’s lines, provided the biggest laughs for me.
The movie does a good job of not making Amanda a one-dimensional, unattainable mean girl designed to only break Keith’s heart. She has depth, coming from “the wrong side of the tracks” like Keith and Watts, and she’s a sympathetic character. At no point did I feel like she was leading Keith on, other than the obvious moment when she first agrees to go on a date with him in order to make Hardy jealous. She was clearly unsure about her feelings for Keith, but was still willing to give him a chance, not heartless enough to ditch him and return to her jerky boyfriend once his usefulness passed.
Watts is the resident ‘cool girl’, and after trying to warn Keith that it would never work with Amanda, she does her best to put her feelings for him aside so she can support his choices. This is clearly difficult because Watts wears her heart on her sleeve for sure, and I was often blown away that Keith seemed totally oblivious to how she felt when it was pretty darn obvious. I do have to say that Keith and Watts had some great chemistry, and their first kiss – Watts is trying to “prep” Keith for what might happen if Amanda wants to kiss him – is pretty electric. Amanda and Keith would have been a fine love match, but they lacked any real spark. I could definitely see them becoming friends, however.
Some Kind of Wonderful is not a great movie, but it’s definitely one of the better offerings of the ’80’s Brat Pack era. I found Masterson to be more relatable, and a better actress than Molly Ringwald (whom John Hughes initially wanted in the role of Watts). Not to mention I think Keith and Watts were far more interesting than Blane and Andie, if we’re going to compare SKOW to Pretty in Pink.
There is just something about ’80’s teen comedies that fill me with nostalgia. The clothes, the hair, the synth-pop soundtracks. And John Hughes was a master at creating authentic teen stories, giving them depth and complexity that is difficult to find in similar movies nowadays. Again, I’m really surprised Some Kind of Wonderful isn’t mentioned more when discussing John Hughes. It’s endearing and relatable, with some amazing chemistry between the leads, and just the right amount of schmaltz and humor. I think it’s by far one of his better movies, and definitely deserves more recognition.
I would remiss not to mention one of my new all-time favorite lines in any rom-com ever: “You look good wearing my future.” It’s just one of those lines that make you swoon.