Wonderstruck (2017) ***

April 3rd, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Todd Haynes | Cast: Julianne Moore, Toby Jones, Michelle Williams | Amy Hargreaves | US | Drama | 120min

Scripted by Brian Selznick based on his 2011 novel, Todd Haynes follows his gorgeously sumptuous Carol with twee and self-indulgent schmaltz. It follows similarly nostalgic lines, the childhood wonder and magic connected to happy memories of the past. But the retrospective often magical reveries finally emerging in a narrative voiceover require us to marvel at the serendipity of fate. Often we remember what we chose to and clothe it in swathes of golden glory. Wonderstruck is by no means a bad film but it often feels disingenuous and sentimentally saccharine – it is a film that congratulates itself it a glow of smugness composed of an intertwining narrative that sashays back and forth about two aurally-impaired children who grow up at different moments in time, who are lonely and head for the bright lights of the city away from the unhappiness of their rural homes.

Ben (Oakes Fegley) is a troubled kid from Gunflint, Minnesota whose single mother (Michelle Williams) was killed in a car crash before he got to know the identity of his father. When he hits the big time arriving in 1970s New York (a lovely imaginative scenes and one of the best in the film) he finds a book with a message to his mother from a person called Danny and decides to follow up on the address written there. The narrative then flips back to 1927 where RoseĀ (Millicent Simmonds) is entranced by a Hollywood silent movie star Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore). Rose also makes her way to the big City to see her idol perform on the stage. And the two stories collide through their characters’ mutual fascination with the Museum of Natural History. Rose’s strand is the weaker and least convincing of the two. To say that her love of silent movies is connected to her deafness is rather glib and completely overlooks the vital component of orchestral accompaniment that brings this form alive. Although Ben’s strand is more engaging it lacks the ability to deal with major plotholes and inconsistencies that culminate in its absurd denouement. Wonderstuck is certainly well-meaning but ends up being worthy and caught up with its own importance in some of the longueurs in the museum. MT




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