Some Kind of Wonderful End to This Series
by Robert Mishou
Here it goes – my last installment of looking back at the Big 5 John Hughes classics from the ‘80s. We’ve discuss (in chronological order) Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Pretty in Pink. Now it is time to close off the decade of Hughes with Some Kind of Wonderful.
Of all of these films, this is the one that I remember the least – that I have the fewest recollections about. Some Kind of Wonderful was released almost exactly a year after Pretty in Pink, in February of 1987. The reason that this film escapes me a bit today is that in February of 1987 I was a senior at Frankfurt American High School in Frankfurt, (then) West Germany. I was dating and madly in love with my future wife, I was just accepted to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and I was mentally preparing for my return to the United States after living overseas for the previous six years – so, pardon me for not remembering everything about the movie. I do remember seeing the teaser and loving it; it definitely made me excited to see the latest Hughes installment and is still one of my favorite teasers of all time.
I did go see it in the theater, but clearly my mind was other places because all really remember is someone playing drums, probably because of that teaser. I definitely recognized a few of the cast members like Lea Thompson from Back to the Future and I had read that Eric Stoltz was supposed to be Marty McFly, but was replaced by Michael J. Fox. Some Kind of Wonderful did not have the same lasting effect on me that the previous Hughes films had. I did catch it on cable a few times during college and I do remember liking it.
Maybe it is because I have so few real memories of this film, but I really enjoyed watching it again. I did not come to it completely clean and unbiased, but it was the cleanest viewing of all of these Hughes’ films. While watching I was easily transported back to 1987 (the year is even uttered by Watts) and my own senior year in high school. Watching Some Kind of Wonderful this time made me believe that this was Hughes chance to retell Pretty in Pink. With some quick reading, you can find that Hughes’ original ending to Pretty in Pink had Andie leaving with Duckie, but due to test audience disapproval, the script was changed and Andie ends up with Blaine. I am perfectly fine with that ending, but Hughes must have been a bit unsatisfied and decided to make Some Kind of Wonderful with the ending he wanted.
The plots of the two films are similar. Both feature a very deep divide between classes. Those who have and those who have not do not get along. In Some Kind of Wonderful, regular, working class Keith (Eric Stoltz) has a major crush on Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson), who lives in Keith’s neighborhood, but hangs out with rich friends and is dating the ultra rich Hardy (Craig Sheffer). We have a conflict, which of course, needs some complication. Next we have Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), the drum playing tomboy who has been in love with Keith forever. All of this sounds pretty familiar doesn’t it? Andie has a crush on unattainable Blaine, but Duckie has been in love with Andie for years. Is Hughes just doing another Pretty in Pink? Maybe. Maybe there is a good reason to retell a the same story. There are a few differences: Some Kind of Wonderful takes place in California and the genders are all switched around. Hardy is as despicable as Steff and the main players are extremely likable in both films. Both have secondary characters who we pull for, both Watts and Duckie are easy to root for. Hughes’ major change here is the resolution. I think deep down that Hughes wanted Duckie to win – to get the girl. So in Some Kind of Wonderful, he does just that. Watts survives all of the trials of her relationship with Keith and, after Amanda pushes him to her, gets the guy.
While I believe that Duckie and Watts fulfill the same role, Watts is a more complete character. Watts is a legitimate tom boy who, while not completely fitting in, has more depth to her character than Duckie does. Duckie is quirky and funny, but his antics smack a little too much of desperation. Watts is also desperate, loving Keith from afar and never letting him know, hoping he would figure it out on his own, but I believe her more. Her character shows sincere talent with her ability on the drums; shows sincere longing through the way she looks at Keith; shows bravery when she is the driver for Keith and Amanda’s date; and shows honest emotion on her tear drenched face when she thinks she has lost Keith forever. Most importantly, Watts doesn’t need Keith to be a success in life, where Duckie may be nothing without Andie. I do wish the film showed her playing the drums more often, heck include the scene from the teaser in the movie. Watts is the most complete character in this film and in many ways makes the film worth watching.
Hardy. Hardy. Hardy. This completely despicable character is easily one of the worst guys to be present in a Hughes film. As much as I loathe Steff in Pretty in Pink, Hardy seems worse because he knows what he is doing and manipulates those around him. Hardy uses Amanda, lies to her, manipulates her, and then discards her (lucky for her!). He is used to getting what he wants – girls, cars, parties, whatever; he does not handle losing well at all. Hardy even resorts to setting up Keith by inviting him to a party at his house, all the time planning for his friends to jump Keith pummel the crap out of him. There is not a scene that has Hardy in it that reveals any sort of sympathy. He is a jerk when he pulls into the gas station that Keith works in to confront him about talking to “his girl” Amanda. He is a lying pig when, after hitting on another girl, he tells Amanda, “Trust is the basis for any relationship. I trust you.” Then puts a ring on her finger! He even has the audacity to say, “Well, this jealousy crap it getting a bit tedious.” At the end of the film, Hardy refuses to fight Keith himself. Instead, he will have his boys do it for him. I am not a fighting kind of guy, but if I could see Hardy I would seriously consider punching him in the face.
Usually I do not like situations where the threatened hero is saved by an unexpected source, but when Duncan appears at the party to help Keith, an enormous smile crosses my face – yes! Hardy gets what he deserves. Duncan is a rough, delinquent-type of student, not unlike The Breakfast Club’s John Bender, who plays the bully who scares and intimidates other students. Keith meets him in after school detention that he attends on purpose so he can see Amanda, who unbeknownst to Keith, has weaseled (and flirted) her way out of this punishment. Duncan and Keith strike up a friendships based on art the each is creating – Keith’s pencil on paper, Duncan’s knife on desk. This unlikely friendship surfaces a few times in the film and serves to not only help Keith, but to help the viewers smile and have faith that those with everything do not always win.
I believe Keith and the way that Stoltz plays him. I believe Watts and the way Masterson plays her. I hate Hardy because of the way Sheffer plays him. I love the end of Some Kind of Wonderful. Hughes’ films tend to have poignant endings:
Pretty in Pink: Jake: “Happy birthday, Samantha. Blow out the candles, make a wish.”
Sam: “it already came true.”
The Breakfast Club: the closing letter
Ferris Bueller: Ferris: “You’re still here? It’s over, go home. Go.”
Pretty in Pink: Blaine: “You told me you couldn’t believe in someone who did not believe in you. I always believed in you. You just didn’t believe in me. I love you.”
Duckie: “Andie, he came here alone. You’re right, he’s not like the others. If you don’t go to him now, I’m never going to take you to another prom ever again. . .”
These are all great, but the last lines of Some Kind of Wonderful really hit me:
Watts (putting in the earrings Keith gave her), “Well, how do they look?” Keith: “You look good wearing my future.” This is the perfect ending to a Hughes film that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of ‘80s film lore.
Here are the numbers. In order of box office receipts, here are how the Big 5 John Hughes films fared:
#1 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – $70,136,369
#2 The Breakfast Club – $45,871,171
#3 Pretty in Pink – $40,471,663
#4 Sixteen Candles – $23,686,027
#5 Some Kind of Wonderful – $18,553,948
Maybe we were tired of high school movies by the time Some Kind of Wonderful came along in 1987. Maybe we were tired of seeing the same faces inhabit the same halls. Maybe John Hughes had said all there was to say about being in high school in the ‘80s. For whatever reason, Some Kind of Wonderful took in the lowest amount at the box office, yet it may be one of the better views of high school in the ‘80s that Hughes created. While it does not meet the sophistication or depth of The Breakfast Club, nor does it have the humor of Sixteen Candles or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Some Kind of Wonderful deserves it place in the canon of films made about high school in the 1980s. If you have not seen it for a while, or have never seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it – you will not regret it.