Grace was interested in a reprieve from the color-saturated bleakness of Heathers so I took her back to the land of Scrappy Working Class White Kids Versus The World. I couldn’t remember if Some Kind of Wonderful had anything to recommend it artistically but I did remember liking it, mostly due to Mary Stuart Masterson’s adorable performance as latchkey drummer-girl Watts (yes, named after Charlie).
Despite the re-teaming of John Hughes and Howard Deutsch, Some Kind of Wonderful underperformed at the box office back in 1987. The issue might have been Retread Disease, since the film was basically a gender-reversed Pretty In Pink-in fact, both Andrew McCarthy and Molly Ringwald turned the project down because they felt it was too derivative of movies they’d already made. It might have been an attention span issue: Apparently Hughes was feeling much more inspired by a new idea, and was blowing off rewrites in favor of a new script, which turned out to be Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Maybe it was dissent in the ranks; Deutsch was replaced by Martha Collidge as director, then Hughes didn’t like the darker direction she was taking it and canned her and got Deutsch back. Deutsch fired Kyle MacLachlan, who’d been cast as the obligatory Rich Misogynist Asshat without which you almost cannot have a John Hughes movie. There seems to have been a lot of drama behind the scenes on this one. All well and good, but was there any fire to it for a Teen of Now?
Honestly, when I embarked on this little teen-indoctrination project I figured there’d be some serious limits to what Grace had the patience to sit through, and I’ve been amazed at how well most of these films seem to be holding up.
“So, it’s another Pretty in Pink; she said. “Except the soundtrack isn’t as good.”
“Not as iconic,” I said, shrugging. “Personally I think naming a character after a Stones tune and then playing a cover of it really upfront like that—yeah, it’s a little on the nose for me.”
“Guys are so dumb.”
“Well… Amanda Jones is so much less cool than Watts. And if she’s supposed to be this Helen of Troy type,” Grace said (Grace is a Classics Club geek), “she should have been way more gorgeous than that chick. The one who plays Watts is way prettier, so if it’s about pretty versus smart or pretty versus, you know, like, loyal? Or whatever? Watts wins hands down either way. It makes no sense for Keith to be into Amanda in the first place.”
“Well, who we like doesn’t always make sense.”
“In real life? Of course not. This is fiction.”
“What’s your point?”
“Just because something happens in real life doesn’t make it believable in a story.”
“Tell me about it.” I laughed, because I’d written three novels and in each one, my agent latched onto what was basically the only autobiographical element in it and stamped it with the “unrealistic” stamp.
“Okay, but here’s the deal with this one. I like the family dynamics. Keith is cool. I like how he’s a shy artist kid and a car mechanic at the same time. And I love Watts. She’s a great character. I like how the dad wants Keith to have what he never got, and he wants it so much he doesn’t notice Keith wants something else anyway. And the whole bromance with Keith and the giant bully-kid whose dad is the museum security guard? That rocked.”
“No one would start the Trojan War for Amanda Jones. That whole storyline is ridiculous. But that’s not the part that bugs me the most.”
“What bugs you the most?”
“The fact that Keith sneaks all his money out of his bank account and basically shuts himself out of college to buy them for the not-that-great girl?”
“No. That part I understand. That part’s cool actually. He knows what he’s doing is wrong and doomed and he does it anyway. I dig that part. It’s when he gives them to Watts in the end.”
“Oh, you don’t like that? I would think that’d be, like, hey, Keith finally got his head out of his butt.”
“It’s not Keith that bugs me. It’s her.”
“It’s like they wrote that scene because the line ‘You look good wearing my future’ was too cutesy to pass up. But she wouldn’t take them.”
“She says she was hoping he’d give them to her ever since she helped him pick them out.”
“I know, but she’s Watts! That character would have heard ‘You look good wearing my future’ and stop dead in her tracks. She would have made him take them back to the store. That was the whole point. She wanted to be his future, not wear it. She would never have been OK with wearing diamonds that cost his life savings. Or that he bought for someone else.”
“You know, I read that in the earlier version of the script she actually does say she’s taking them back to the store.”
“Why did they cut it?” Grace gave the scrolling end credits a withering look, as if the dolly grips might be able to justify this.
“I don’t remember,” I said.
“That was a mistake,” Grace said.
“Well, so do you like the movie?”
Grace shrugged. “Actually I did. It’s enjoyable. There are some great scenes and it’s more complicated than Pretty in Pink. But you know what I like better?”
“The way better movie that was screaming ‘Let me out!!!’ the whole time!”
“And what would that movie have done differently?”
“I’m not sure,” she said, “but it would have been more about Watts and less about Keith’s crush on Amanda. Watts is where all the energy comes from.”
“Was that a deliberate pun?”
“Hah. No. But that’s funny.”
Amy Glynn was probably not quite a Watts, but she certainly wasn’t an Amanda Jones.