Wonder Is A Genuine And Heartwarming Movie
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Producers: Michael Beugg, Dan Clark, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
Screenplay: Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad, Stephen Chbosky
Based On: The novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio
Danielle Rose Russell
Production: Lionsgate, Mandeville Films, Participant Media, Walden Media
The entire time I was driving home from this movie, I was trying to think about what made a movie like this work where most in this genre don’t. The movie is about a boy named August Pullman, born with Treacher Collins Syndrome, and how he navigates his first year of middle school after being homeschooled all his life. It carries all the hallmarks of “Inspirational person with a sickness or disability” movie; the sister feels like the family revolves around the boy, some of the kids at school are mean to him, and so on.
What I settled on is like the best films of this sub-genre, it is completely genuine in it’s intent. That goes for every level of this film, The direction, the screenplay, the music, and especially the acting are all completely genuine in their intent to help you understand and love these characters. It’s actually a really smart choice that the sister is going to be in the school play Our Town, a play about seeing and understanding people from every perspective, because the film sort of follows that structure and it works so well that I, a man that rarely sheds a tear anymore, was welling up constantly. Yes his sister Via feels like the world revolves around her brother, but the movie isn’t afraid to go back and show events from her perspective; what’s going on with her at school and her only real friend pretending she doesn’t exist, and that her deceased grandma was the only one who understood her. She never acts mean towards her brother, in fact her voiceover states she understands why things have to be the way they are, and it fleshes that character out into more than just “The Sister.” Even the friend who abandoned her isn’t played as a villain, the movie goes back and follows her as she explains what’s happening in her life that is making her act the way she is, humanizing what would have been a cardboard character in another movie.
Every important kid in this movie gets the same kind of humanization; even a few of the bullies are humanized towards the end. All but the main bully Julian, who is an obvious sociopath, and when you see the extent of his bullying, harsh enough to make even his fellow bullies turn on him, it’s hard to sympathize when they show his somehow more horrible parents.
All the acting is great, I don’t think I saw a bad performance in the bunch. We all know Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Mandy Patinkin are great at giving heartfelt, earnest performances. What surprised me was that they got that many good child and teenage actors in one movie. Every kid and teen in this movie has a bright future in the business. Daveed Diggs is really good as the English teacher Mr. Browne, making me even more grateful that Hamilton introduced the likes of Diggs, Lin Manuel Miranda, and Leslie Odom Jr. to the public consciousness.
All in all, if you want to see something different than Justice League or The Star (and if I want to see an “animal experiences the Nativity” movie, I’ll pop on Small One), you won’t regret seeing this.