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Some Kind Of Wonderful

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 94 minutes

Starring: Eric Stoltz, Mary Sturart Masterson, Craig Sheffer and Lea Thompson

Written by: John Hughes

Directed by: Howard Deutch

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: None

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Mono, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (22 Scenes)

Released: August 20th, 2002

 

 

It's been a great year for DVD fans, but for me moreso than a lot of other people. A lot of studios have been raiding their vaults and bringing out favorite catalog titles. This of course has made me happy, especially with Paramount. They've released a lot of great classic titles this year (such as the "Beverly Hills Cop" series) and plan on releasing more long-awaited titles (including a lot of music-based stuff coming fall 2002). But still, if there's one movie, a personal favorite of mine no less, that I thought wouldn't see the light of day on our favorite video format for ages was "Some Kind Of Wonderful."

I would say that "Some Kind Of Wonderful" remains somewhat obscure in the world of cinema. I'm not sure if I would call it a cult kind of film, but rather, when people think of the work by John Hughes and the teen film genre, I don't think "Some Kind Of Wonderful" comes to mind. When it first opened it was a somewhat moderate success, but only to a certain small degree. In talking with movie fans, I believe most of the audience was gained through that run, as it hasn't been one of those movies that gained a large audience through time on video. Perhaps I'm glad it's one of those "little" movies that never became too big or overrated. For one, I discovered this movie a good five years ago (as of writing this) through the magic of cable television, surprised that I never even heard of it.

The film follows Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz), a teenager on the crossroads of life. He comes from a blue collar area and is heavily into art. Keith spends his time drawing away and making money at a local gas station. However, Keith has been nursing a crush on Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson). Amanda is beautiful, and naturally, runs with the rich and popular crowd. However, she's not exactly Ms. Moneybags and gets by on her looks and reputation. They seem to be worlds apart, but are actually bonded closer than one may think.

So when Amanda dumps her fooling around boyfriend Hardy (Craig Sheffer), literally right after, Keith asks Amanda out on a date. Amanda agrees in a flash, much to the surprise of everyone. However, Keith becomes cautious of himself when he realizes Amanda just might be using him to get back at Hardy, or that it might be a setup where Hardy lures Keith to his house to beat him up. Keith needs to realize several things: where is his life going (and pressures from his college-obsessed father doesn't help) and could the perfect girl actually be his loyal drummer best friend Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson)?

There's so much to like about "Some Kind Of Wonderful." A lot of John Hughes' teen films have been pretty symbolic, but I've found that "Some Kind Of Wonderful" ranks as the one with the most depth. There is so much sweetness and richness to be found in the film. Yes, people have made comparisons with this very movie to the last John Hughes and Howard Deutch effort, "Pretty In Pink," and while I can see some similarities, I think each have many differences and stand for many different kind of things. "Pretty In Pink" is in a sense, somewhat fluffy. Not that it's bad or anything (I sure as hell enjoy it, be sure to read my review for thoughts on it), but I find that "Some Kind Of Wonderful" is much more honest, caring and somber.

Hughes' script hits all the right notes. While I consider this movie a drama, it does have some genuinely funny moments (I can't resist Duncan the skinhead and his antics). But there are so many great themes and characters to explore. Keith may come across nervous and shy, but deep inside there lies a strong person who acts rightfully on his own instincts. Keith knows something a lot of people usually fail to realize: you don't have to prove anything to anyone, only yourself. Keith is very observant. He is a good, decent person who works hard for what he desires and for what he stands for. The character is incredibly true and heartfelt.

The supporting characters, however, makes us realize all these wonderful things about Keith. Amanda Jones means well, but due to her popularity and how she's not really rich, she pawns her way through things and desperately rides things out all for the sake of reputation. There is some substance to her as we learn, but she's more of an illusion as she herself tries to fit in. Then there's Watts, who in some nice moments, we see her affection and undying love for her best friend. How she compares herself to Amanda Jones in the girls locker room, her tomboy qualities that make her different and how they hurt her in some sense. Her love for Keith kills her, and this moving scene in a nightclub is a bit short, but perfectly and daringly effective. There's also the manipulative, asshole-qualities of Amanda's love interest Hardy. He's sly and has all the right moves, but there's nothing but ego, money and greed to him. He's a guy you love to hate.

The themes in the movie are really relatable, and I'm sure we can not only identify and recognize the characters Hughes puts in, but what he's trying to say. There's such greatness in his identification of our own needs and our wants, and how we as people try to make our lives our own by doing what we want, and doing those things by ourselves. But there's also our dreams and our reality. Keith thinks he knows exactly what he wants, when he realizes all of that was right next to him all along.

There's also elements of family and trust. It's great how Keith strikes up a friendship with Duncan and his gang, and there's a crucial scene where they exchange a few lines where Duncan more or less explains what being a friend really means. Keith is someone who can be easily respected, while Amanda has the same kind of effect, but in a different way. The problem is she ends up trusting things too much, and taking things for granted. Amanda has no sense in her priorities or values, but she puts some trust in Keith, even if there is some back motive that she is using him. However, Amanda is full of fear and doesn't quite realize what she does to herself. She's even a bit uncaring.

In family, Keith's father wants the best for him by wanting him to go to college, but in truth, he really has no idea what his son wants because he never listens to his needs. Keith's father is living through Keith (even though Keith's Dad has plans to attend college in the movie), but it's respectable that he wants his son to be better off than he was and not sell tires six days a week. And while there's back and forth bickering between Keith and his younger sister Laura, there's a simple but wonderful scene where you really see how much they care for each other and that they have strong family concepts. This is all the opposite from Watts, who hints all throughout the film that she has no family and has no relationship with her brothers or parents. It's actually heartbreaking, as she puts everything into her best friend.

Symbolisms are a crucial part to the movie too. It's interesting to note the name of Hardy. He may look hard thanks to his money and reputation, but deep inside he's obnoxious and cruel. He's not hard at all, but rather, deeply insecure and vulnerable. It's interesting to note that Keith is an artist. The world of art can be used as a metaphor for many different things. Mainly though, I see it as perceptions. Keith's drawings of Amanda are just that. He sees this lovely, perfect girl fantasy in his mind and how wonderfully aesthetic and great she is. But through their conversations, perhaps Keith's perceptions change and it's a given he'll either draw something else or would draw Amanda differently. And yes, you can have all the money in the world, but that's show. What every rich kid at Keith's school doesn't have is a noble heart, something far more important.

The acting in the film is really phenomenal. This is a fine example of what great casting means, as the main characters are interlocked in some way and have great chemistry, not to mention play well off one another. Eric Stoltz, definitely an accomplished actor, delivers one of his finest performances ever as Keith. Stoltz captures this sweetness about Keith that really shines. He shows off all the shy qualities of the character, and all the consideration and decency, as well as self-worth, Keith happens to hold. He's lovable, earnest and just plain remarkable in such a finely crafted role.

Lea Thompson is equally good as Amanda Jones, showing off all the insecurities of her life and how she takes a chance, only to realize there is much to be found than what she thought. Craig Sheffer captures the sly and cocky attitude of Hardy perfectly, while John ("Beverly Hills Cop" I and II, woo!) Ashton is excellent as the supportive but stern father of Keith. Elias Koteas is superb as Duncan, while Maddie Corman captures all those lovable sibling qualities in Laura (and speaking of siblings, Keith's other sister is played by Candace Cameron of TV's "Full House" fame). Still, I find Mary Stuart Masterson's performance as Watts downright amazing. She keeps the boy-ish qualities of the character in checking, but how she keeps eating away due to her love and her own feelings of being alone. She shares a great chemistry with Keith as you really believe they're the best of friends. In fact, you really believe everyone and their relationships (father son, brother sister, etc.) because it's so realistic.

Howard Deutch (who would later go on to marry Lea Thompson two years after this movie was made), helms this film in strong fashion. This was only his second feature, but he paces the film very well and makes it all balanced. He gets some nice scenic camera shots like he did in "Pretty In Pink," but he really gets to the heart of the movie and all the matters as told in Hughes' screenplay in such a simple, well-thought manner. The editing is nice too, and the music choices and when they're played are downright excellent. It gives me a great, nostalgic feeling and it all fits so beautifully. The score from Stephen Hague and John Musser is downright bassy, but really well done. It's a shame the score has never been made available on CD or tape or record before.

Films like this are simply one of a kind. They seem to have some kind of ease, and are trusting in their characters and their stories. Everything is balanced just right. The film underplays it's sweetest moments, so they submerse themselves and stick inside yourself to give off a nice, self-realization kind-of feeling. This is the perfect teen movie in my opinion, directly forcing or implying what so many adolescenece-based films tries to stand for. It's some remarkable story, it's some remarkable effort and in all, it's simply some kind of wonderful.

 

"Some Kind Of Wonderful" features a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, and the results are pretty good.Granted, the movie looks to be a bit faded out and can appear a bit grainy, but detail is often pretty good as well as black and shadow levels. Color saturation is pretty nice and decent, bringing a good sense of vibrancy, while fleshtones hit their mark appropriately. Still, scratches, dirt pieces and blemishes pop up here and there, while noise and shimmering, as well as a good deal of halo edging is apparent on the picture. There's no edge enhancement, though. It looks nice and fits with the film overall, even if it's slightly disappointing.

 

"Some Kind Of Wonderful" also features a English Dolby Digital 5.1 remix. It's nothing bad, but there's nothing that really makes it stand out either. It's an effective, though pretty plain and rather straightforward mix. Dialogue is very clear and smooth, while surround effects (be a fight scuffle, the club, a party) are decent and use the channels appropriately. The music sounds excellent though with good use of the speakers and nice subwoofer effects. And while nothing overlaps with anything else, it doesn't have anything to make it original or creative. Still, I'm not complaining. It fits the movie fine with good dynamic range and strong fidelity, and I'm glad it's been remixed. Also included are English Dolby Surround and French Mono tracks, plus English closed captions and English subtitles.

 

Naturally, my favorite teen movie of all time gets nothing in the supplements department. No commentary. No trailers. I would have loved retrospective interviews, but no. Nothing. Sigh...

 

An excellent character drama of the pressures of being a teenager, "Some Kind Of Wonderful" is a true classic that has something everyone can relate to and really enjoy. The performances are flawless, the pacing and structure of the film is dead even and it's just a really well made film that sports fine directing and excellent writing. Sadly, the DVD has no supplements at all and that breaks my heart. However, the transfer and 5.1 remix are adequate. If you've never seen it, you owe yourself a rental. Otherwise, if you're a fan of the movie, go out there and pick it up.