A “Wonderful” Love Triangle Movie

Hello everyone!  It’s back to the 80’s reviews, and what better movie to kick off with than “Some Kind of Wonderful” (1987), directed by Howard Deutch. It has the old familiar set up of the hero being caught between two contrasting choices of girls. Roger Ebert probably summed up the concept best in his review, “it is not about whether the hero will get the girl, it is whether the hero should get the girl, and when was the last time you saw a movie that even knew that could be the question?”

Eric Stolz stars as Keith Nelson, an artsy teenage mechanic from a working class background. His best friend is a tomboyish drummer named Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), and his dad Cliff (John Ashton), puts pressure on him to attend college, and get the education he never did, while Keith would much rather paint instead. He has a crush on the beautiful, seemingly unattainable Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson). In a refreshing take on the normal procedure, Amanda comes from the same modest background as Watts and Keith, but as she hangs out with the “popular” crowd, this makes her “rich by association”.

After Amanda breaks up with her caddish boyfriend, Hardy (Craig Sheffer), Keith wastes no time in asking her out. She accepts his offer, primarily out of spite for Hardy.  This eventually leads to Amanda being shunned by her snooty friends for daring to date outside the “in” crowd. Meanwhile, Watts has some issues of her own, as she has developed unrequited feelings for her best friend…

If you feel that the story that I’ve summarized sounds a little familiar, it’s because it was based the movie “Pretty in Pink” (1986), which preceded this movie by one year. It was not only directed by Howard Deutch, but was scripted by the king of 80’s teen movies, John Hughes. It’s worth noting that the stories are eeriely similar to each other. While “Pink” is about Molly Ringwald trying to choose between a smooth rich guy Andrew McCarthy and quirky best friend Jon Cryer, “Wonderful”  has essentially the exact same premise with the genders reversed.

When Hughes produced “Pretty in Pink”, his original intention was to have Molly Ringwald end up with Jon Cryer’s lovable goofball Duckie. However, the test audience for that film weren’t receptive to that ending, taking it as a sign that the rich and the poor social classes didn’t belong together. The ending was then changed to the one we all know, in which Ringwald ends up with McCarthy’s. It’s funny to note that had “Pink” ended up the way that Hughes originally envisioned it, it’s highly likely that we wouldn’t have “Wonderful”.

If I had to pick between “Pink” and “Wonderful” as being the better film, I’d ultimately have to choose the latter movie, as the supporting characters are more fleshed out and entertaining in my opinion. In “Wonderful”, we have  Duncan(Elias Koteas), a skinhead delinquent pal of Keith’s,who steals many of his scenes,  Laura (Maddie Corman), his annoying younger sister, and Ashton as the open-minded parent who just wants the best for his son.

As for the main trio of Stolz, Masterson and Thompson, they all pull off their respective roles with aplomb. Stolz is appealing as the man in the middle, Thompson pulls off the typical popular girl role with freshness, and Masterson shines as the friend who pines away from afar.

“Some Kind of Wonderful” rates as 4 stars our of a 5 star rating. Although it’s predictable and slow moving in parts, it ultimately captures the decisions of high school, and retains the typical Hughes charm that come from his teen movies. “Some Kind of Wonderful” was the last teen movie Hughes was involved in, before he decided to try his hand at making more adult themed pictures. Nevertheless, “Wonderful” ensures that Hughes’ teen movie period went out with not a fizzle, but with a bang.

If you enjoyed this review, please feel free to check out the movie, “Pretty in Pink”, or you can read my review of the film here! Until next time!

What a Bad Feeling I have about “Flashdance”

One thing I mainly expect when I watch a movie or a TV show is to be able to root for someone. Even if the protagonist is a bit of a jerk, or an anti-hero at best, there’s usually always a redeemable quality to them that makes you want them to succeed in their goals. But when the principal character doesn’t come off as a jerk per se, they seem to be so unlikely that you never really forge a connection with them. They remain as a sort of a caricature of sorts, so that you never really feel as though you know them as a person.

That’s the main problem I had with the main character of Adrian Lyne’s 1983 dance flick,”Flashdance”, Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals). She’s an 18 year old aspiring dancer who works as a welder in a steel mill during the day, but at night moonlights as an erotic dancer in a local bar, Mawby’s.

The film chronicles Alex’s goal to audition for a prestigious dance school in Pittsburgh,as she as promised her elderly mentor, Hanna (Lilia Skala) she would, as well as her blossoming relationship with Nick Hurley (Michael Nouri), her recently divorced boss at the steel mill. Alex is determined to follow her dreams, but does she have what it takes?

As much as I hate to admit it, I didn’t have an entertaining time while watching “Flashdance”. While I did enjoy some of the songs (notably, the title song “Flashdance (What a Feeling)” by Irene Cara), Jennifer Beals’ engaging and hopeful central performance as Alex, and her sentimental friendship with Hanna, I didn’t like how some of the running time would be taken up with endless dance sequences, and it didn’t really spend time developing Alex’s character. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Alex seemed to be an unbelievable character to me. Ironic, I know, since the movie was based on the true story of Maureen Marder, a steel mill worker whose story played out similar to Alex’s.

I also found the romance between Alex and Nick to be rather lacking in depth. To be fair, this might have been in part because of the age difference between the actors (Beals being 18 and Nouri 36 during filming). As they both spent almost all of their scenes together berating and screaming at each other constantly, I eventually reached the point where I couldn’t have cared less if they got together in the end, as they both seemed to make each other more miserable than content, which doesn’t exactly make you want to see two characters such as these together.

Renowned film critic Roger Ebert infamously slammed “Flashdance”, likening it to “a ninety minute music video” and placing it on his “Most Hated Films” List. I’m inclined to agree with Ebert on this one. I know some people may enjoy this dance movie, but I wasn’t one of them, and I’m giving “Flashdance” only two and a half stars out of five.