While arguably a riff on his own Pretty In Pink, John Hughes delivers another fantastic teen dramedy, overseen by director Howard Deutch that plays role reversal with its Molly Ringwald alter-ego film.
This time the main character is Keith Nelson (Eric Stoltz), a high schooler who wants to be an artist, but his family’s blue collar may get in the way. He dreams of getting a date with the prettiest girl in school, Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson).
Unfortunately, Amanda is in a relationship with Hardy (Craig Sheffer), the usual rich kid bad boy that is the baddies in these kinds of films. Throw in the fact that Keith’s best friend, Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson) is crushing on Keith, well you’ve got a stereotypical brew ready to play out.
But like all of Hughes films, the dialogue, the needle drops, and the performances elevate this film above regular teen fare. Elias Koteas steals every scene he is in, and watching the way Keith’s character grows through the course of the film is a nod to the abilities of Stoltz, Deutch and Hughes.
This one seems to get overlooked at times, overshadowed by Pretty In Pink, though if I had to choose, this is the stronger of the films, because it has the ending Hughes wanted, the one that didn’t work for Pink.
I like Keith, though he seems more than a little oblivious when it comes to Watts. I get that they have been friends forever, and he doesn’t see her that way, but have you seen Watts? She’s also brilliantly smart and funny! Of course he has to end up with her, as great as Amanda Jones is, Keith’s journey is the stronger for Watts.
The film also features the wonderful John Ashton as Keith’s father, a blue collar guy who doesn’t quite understand his son’s dreams, but wants what is best for him. And man is Sheffer’s Hardy such a bastard in this one. Amanda deserves better than him for sure, and while Keith may give her the love and affection she deserves, she grows as well as she sees all aspects of his life, but its Mary Stuart Masterson’s Watts that is the true heart of the film, and you want to see her happy.
This one has weathered the years better than some of the situations and characters in some of Hughes other films (which doesn’t make me love them any less). This is a film that I didn’t come to in the 80s, in fact I didn’t see it until the late 90s, when a friend of my insisted I watch it, as it was one of his favorite Hughes films (he had a thing for Watts) and consequently it’s become a favorite of mine because of the association it has with my friend.
I think I have one more Hughes coming my way…