Thursday, March 23, 2006

Some Kind of Wonderful

John Hughes’ Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) deserves a place amongst the noteworthies of the teen movie genre. If you liked Hughes’ other films, The Breakfast Club (1985) and Pretty in Pink (1986), chances are you’ll enjoy this one as well. An unoriginal plot (centered upon angst-ridden love triangles and the high school social scene) nevertheless enables a touching and sophisticated depiction of teenage life in the 1980s.

High school senior Keith Nelson manages to get a date with his popular classmate, Amanda Jones. Although they are both from working-class backgrounds, Amanda runs with the rich kids’ crowd. Does this mean Amanda is shallow? Absolutely, according to Watts, Keith’s tomboy best friend. Watts persistently tries to dissuade Keith from becoming involved with Amanda- for his own good, of course. Keith, however, ignores both Watts’ advice and her own growing infatuation with him, creating a deliciously painful situation.

Meanwhile, Keith’s father urges him to break the Nelson family out of their blue-collar status by attending college. Keith, who is artistically inclined, continually avoids discussing post-graduation plans with his father and befriends some misfit classmates who also appreciate art. Though rough around the edges, these skinheads prove to be both generous and loyal, in stark contrast to Amanda’s snobby girlfriends.

The antagonism between Keith and Amanda’s ex-boyfriend, the wealthy and preppy Hardy Jenns, thus goes beyond mere rivalry to highlight class tensions between children of blue-collar and white-collar backgrounds. Love triangles are all very well and good, but this sort of conflict is a real issue, one that lends the film a sense of credibility and gravity it would not otherwise have. The trials and tribulations of Some Kind of Wonderful’s teens are made powerfully compelling by the very fact that they are mundane. This, then, is the film’s true strength and what makes it well worth viewing.

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