Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Review: Wonder

Cert: PG / 113 mins / Dir. Stephen Chbosky / Trailer

Right. At one point early in Wonder, Isabel (Julia Roberts) says to her daughter Via (Izabela Vidovic) "Look, it's Hallow'een tomorrow, why not take the day off school and we'll make it a long weekend?". So in this story, the last day in October apparently falls on a Friday. The last Friday, October the 31st was in 2014, and there won't be another one until 2025. But we also see young Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) in school with a Star Wars: The Force Awakens travel-cup, bearing the image of Kylo Ren. Since the SW:TFA merchandise was only unveiled in September 2015, this means the film can't be taking place in 2014. That's okay, maybe this all happens in the future for reasons which aren't explained. Look, it's fine.

But later on, we see Via's friend looking at her phone, where the display reads "Friday Feb 24". Since the film follows Auggie's first turbulent year at school, this is clearly supposed to be four (rather than sixteen) months later. And when Hallow'een falls on a Friday, the following February the 24th will be a Tuesday. Every time. So one of those is wrong.

So how do you expect to buy into the emotional truth of your story when you're openly lying to me about the 'facts'? This is bullshit*1.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
This movie shares many of its beats with The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, also from the same director, although Wonder is more family-oriented.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Let's be honest, as great as Wonder is, this is a Sunday-afternoon DVD. I saw it in a cinema at a free screening, so the room was absolutely packed with chatty, code-ambivalent civilians. But as this was for World Kindness Day, I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on them. That said, there were no ads or trailers and no allocated seating for this event, which people are no longer used to. This resulted in absolute confused carnage the likes of which I'm sure we never saw before the seating-system was introduced, as latecomers stumbled around the almost-sold-out auditorium in the dark, squeezing in front of people to reach mid-row seats*2 and having conversations about it all the while.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Absolutely. Wonder is more than a story about a child coming to terms with his birth-defected appearance, but also the dynamic this creates within his family and their social groups. Although as one character in the story observes, that family still revolves around Auggie. The film's diary-style character inserts feel like they were a more central part of RJ Palacio's novel, getting inside the head of family and peers to explain their point-of-view, right or wrong; in the screen version these sections are inconsistently paced, shorter than is realistically useful (often cutting back into the main narrative without closure), and crucially don't cover all of the major players. The film still succeeds because of its heart, though.

Wonder is sad, funny and inspiring in all the right places, even if the the complete lack of sharp-edges probably gears the film towards a younger audience (despite holding valuable advice for all in this world). It's like being waterboarded for two hours with liquidised Hallmark-Channel of course, but the film has unshakeable conviction and, just as importantly, a superb cast to deliver it.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Not best, but strong game from everyone involved. Jacob Tremblay is outstanding as always as young Auggie; his performance isn't quite as complex as the one he put in for Room, but then neither is the role. Both Izabela Vidovic and Danielle Rose Russell manage to convey teenage social stresses without coming off as bratty, and Julia Roberts masterfully exudes stoical protectivity. Owen Wilson is also on great form as Auggie's dad Nate, and has great chemistry with the youngster, although this seems underused in the final edit of the movie (although at 113 minutes, the run-time is already pushing its luck).

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Absolutely not.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Definitely not.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: No shared cast-members, but Wonder gets an honorary level-1 because of a) the sheer frequency of Star Wars references and general affection the film displays throughout, and b) the pretty legit-looking Chewbacca costume being used a few times (even though we don't get Peter Mayhew or Joonas Suotamo wearing it).

And if I HAD to put a number on it…
Oh, and it loses a point for having a 'greatest hits' montage at the end, patronising the audience and demeaning the story's characters at the same time.

*1 Unless of course the conversation between Isabel and Via was taking place on a Sunday with October 31st being on the Monday, and she was talking about extending the weekend out that way. In which case this could have happened at Hallow'een 2016, which would indeed make the following February 24th (ie 2017) fall on a Friday, like the film says it does. This is far more likely to be the case, admittedly. But I'm fairly certain that both Via and Auggie are shown as being at school the same day as the aforementioned conversation. And who goes to school on a Sunday? (note: this question excludes 'Sunday School', which isn't actually school at all). And what the hell kind of parent is like "yeah mate, just take the day off your education, I imagine that'll be fine"? This is still bullshit. [ BACK ]

*2 Not me, I arrived early and deliberately sat at the row-end with no thoroughfare available or needed going past me. I don't like people at the best of times. A fact of which I'm sure you, dear reader, are already aware... [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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