Sunday, 7 February 2010

John Hughes: The Brat Pack films that defined an era - Part Seven: Some Kind Of Wonderful

The series of teen movies that John Hughes was involved in during the 80s came to something of an odd climax after the chaos of Ferris Bueller's Day Off with the somewhat subdued Some Kind Of Wonderful. Now, I recognize it as one of the weaker entries in his output, but the film is still quite dear to me, thanks to its characters.

Essentially, Some Kind Of Wonderful is an alternate version of Pretty In Pink, just with the genders switched. In this flick we have the working class teenaged art fanatic Keith (Eric Stoltz) and his best friend, tomboy Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) in the Pretty In Pink roles of Andie and Duckie, and popular girl Amanda (Lea Thompson) in place of Blane from the earlier film.

It's a very similar story- working class character wants to be with the rich character while their oddball friend is ignored. Thankfully, this one has a much more satisfying ending, as, well, the right people end up with the right people. The role of bad guy (James Spader in Pretty in Pink) is here played by an incredibly unlikeable Craig Scheffer. He really did capture the essence of an utter wanker in his performance. A sign of a good actor, really.

Where this film differs from Pretty in pink is that it is played much more as a straight drama than a comedy, and thus it is a more well rounded film. That's not to say it doesn't have its laughs, and these are supplied very nicely by a suitably imposing Elias Koteas as the punky head of the rough crowd of the school. His burgeoning friendship with the Keith character is entertaining and helps the film stay the right side of overindulgent.

The star of the whole thing though is Mary Stuart Masterson, whose performance as Watts is raw and honest. She makes the character hugely likeable, and by the end of it you're craving a best friend like her. She's rough and foul mouthed, plays the drums and dresses like a bloke, but she has a heart of gold and comes across as very frank and a lot of fun. The direction of Howard Deutch is once again very strong, but it is clear to see that the formula of these films was wearing a little thin by the time Some Kind of Wonderful came around.

That said, it remains eminently watchable and I love it just as much as most of the others. I certainly find more to enjoy in this film than Sixteen Candles, for example. It seems that Hughes had honed his craft so well over those few years that he had honed himself into a corner and ended up repeating an earlier success. It does feel a little like an apology for the ending of Pretty in pink, and it is hugely satisfying to see the geek and his odd friend get together instead of the best friend getting shoved by the wayside like before.

The final few minutes of the film a spot on, with loose ends tied up, characters getting either their comeuppance or their rewards, and a perfect final scene which is possibly the best few lines Hughes wrote alongside the speech at the end of The Breakfast Club. That he would stop making teen comedy dramas with this film is quite fitting. It has the air of things being put right, and rather than a climax, it feels more like an epilogue.

Hughes had said everything he needed to with Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty In Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Some Kind Of Wonderful, and perhaps seeing Keith and Watts walk off into the distance as the credits rolls is the moment he had been building up to all along.

What came after these films would see his name elevated to even greater heights thanks to the hits that were Uncle Buck and the Home Alone films, but to many fans, it feels like his greatest work was within these brat pack films. Did they define a generation? Maybe. Did these films give millions of people some solace during a most turbulent period of their lives? Definitely. Now that's a legacy. May he rest in peace.

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