John Hughes: Some Kind of Genius

June 10, 2011 at 1:43 am Leave a comment

Cover of "Some Kind of Wonderful (Special...

Cover via Amazon

This weekend I spent a lot of time reading, but on Sunday I rode the bus downtown and got off on Congress Avenue to take in a double feature at The Paramount where the Summer Movie Series is happening. I caught Sabrina the first weekend, and I’ve bought a package of discount tickets, so I’ll be going back frequently. I hadn’t been to the movies at The Paramount in a long time, so I forgot that it’s more fun to watch from the balcony. This time I remembered, and I watched from the balcony.

What’s fun about a double feature is that people you don’t know will talk with you in between the movies. The guy who picks out the movies introduces them and gives you a bit of trivia. Pretty cool. You can get that at Austin Film Society screenings and at the Alamo Drafthouse. It makes going to the movies feel like a more collective, social experience.

The double feature was two John Hughes comedies. I should say that I love John Hughes. He’s the single biggest cultural influence of my adolescence. And what’s not to love? His comedies are sweet, although seeing them now I recognize how often I see things in them that I wouldn’t want to show a child. The day two years ago when John Hughes died was a sad one, and I think I remember it and the day that Jim Henson died the way that a baby boomer might remember the assassination of Jack and Bobby Kennedy or Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

The first movie was Sixteen Candles. I remember liking it a lot when I was a kid. It’s dated and doesn’t age very well. It’s entirely wish-fulfillment fantasy (like all romantic comedies – let’s face it), with not a hint of realism thrown in for good measure. The freshman geek with a face full of metal bags the Prom Queen? The Prom King drops the girlfriend that he can “violate in ten different ways” for a sweet, sophomore redhead who’s admitted that she has a crush on him. The redhead’s dad gives her a thumbs up as she ditches her sister’s wedding reception to run off with some strange boy. Ye-ah. That’s gonna happen.

Jake Ryan is the guy who doesn’t exist in American high schools. I’m not saying that the nice guy doesn’t exist. There are lots of them. I’m just saying that he doesn’t look like he belongs on the cover of Tiger Beat, drive a glossy red sports car, live in a suburban mansion, play football and date the head cheerleader. Later, this guy might become a decent guy, but it’ll be sometime in college before it takes hold. It was true then, and it’s true now.

So, Sixteen Candles was every teenager’s dream come true. But did you know that if Hughes had had his way that Molly Ringwald would have ended up with Anthony Michael Hall? I read on the internet that he wanted the Ringwald character in Pretty in Pink to end up with Duckie. The studios intervened in each case. However, they didn’t win in the end with Some Kind of Wonderful. This was like Hughes’ middle finger to the system. He thought, “I’ll show you. The geeks will fall in love, and I will make you like it.” And sure enough, he does.

Some Kind of Wonderful is another Hughes film with a song title. It’s one of his lesser known films. I’ve seen it before, but the first time I saw it was on television some time in the 1990s. Hughes wrote it and was highly involved in the filming, but someone else directed. Howard Deutch was given the script as a peace offering after he made Pretty in Pink with the alternative ending that audiences preferred, where Molly Ringwald gets her Blaine.

I’m a little surprised they didn’t film a third version where she ends up with James Spader, the Iago of John Hughes villains. Seriously, everything’s better with James Spader in it. I would put him in my morning coffee if I could.

If the internet is a reliable source of information (in other words, be somewhat skeptical), when Some Kind of Wonderful was filming, the leads Eric Stoltz and Lea Thompson were dating in real life. A scene where Eric Stoltz and Mary Stuart Masterson are practicing kissing and then blush so charmingly? It’s said to be real since Thompson was on set. After filming wrapped, Howard Deutch married Lea Thompson. Eric Stoltz went on to make Mask, and Mary Stuart Masterson went on to the Chick Flick Hall of Fame in Bed of Roses, Benny & Joon and Fried Green Tomatoes.

Some Kind of Wonderful is a better movie than Sixteen Candles. Lea Thompson plays Amanda Jones, the popular girl from the wrong side of the tracks who landed the wealthy and popular boyfriend, Hardy, (Craig Sheffer) who just so happens to be the world’s biggest douchebag. Chynna Phillips has a small part as Mia, Hardy’s mistress, if you will. Stoltz plays Keith, the sensitive artist who moonlights as a car mechanic. Masterson plays Watts, his tomboy best friend from the third grade, a tomboy who wears boxer shorts and t-shirts as lingerie and plays the drums. She and Keith are inseparable. He pines for Amanda Jones, and she doesn’t seem to realize she’s got a thing for Keith until Amanda is actually within his grasp.

When Amanda catches Hardy whispering sweet nothings with Mia one time too many, she dumps him very publicly, and Keith quickly steps up to the plate. She accepts his offer to go on a date in order to solidify her decision to dump Hardy. She doesn’t really want to go out with Keith. She just wants to hurt Hardy. Hardy is too much of a narcissist to be “hurt,” but he decides that Keith must be punished for having the audacity to “steal” a girl out from under him, even though Keith is so obviously socially inferior.

It’s pretty basic, predictable fun from there. I won’t spoil it for you, but Watts steals the show. The ending is plausible and sweet. In the end everybody gets what they deserve, including Amanda Jones. The best lines in the movie come at the end.

Keith: Why didn’t you tell me [you were in love with me]?

Watts: You didn’t ask.

And

Keith (to Watts): My future looks good on you.

Entry filed under: Celebrity, Childhood, Entertainment, Humor, Love, Relationships. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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