Wednesday, November 29, 2017

[Review] Wonder

With his latest film Wonder, writer-director Stephen Chbosky (best known for The Perks of Being a Wallflower) once again exhibits his compassion for the experience of youth and what it means to find your way in the world, as difficult as it may be. This time he focuses on one of the harshest and most emotionally brutal places on Earth: the hallways of an elementary school.

The story revolves around Auggie (played by Jacob Tremblay, who made waves in the Oscar-nominated Room). He's a Star Wars fan and aspiring astronaut. Oh yeah, and he was born with a facial deformity. 27 surgeries and several years of homeschooling later, he's embarking on the lofty mission of beginning 5th grade at a big school. But it isn't an easy liftoff for him, as he deals with endless stares, name-calling, and bullies (there are some heartbreaking scenes here). We follow him through the ups and downs as makes his mark and opens the eyes and hearts of many.

This is material that could've been majorly sappy, manipulative, and straight-up cheesy -- but it's so watchable, likable, and well-intentioned that it's worth rooting for and embracing. I'm not saying it doesn't get schmaltzy, but it's a good kind of schmaltz -- if you know what I mean. The film also does something interesting with its narrative. Instead of just sticking to Auggie's point-of-view, it switches to the other people in his personal solar system, which adds dimension to these characters and stresses the importance of connections and the ways we impact each other's lives (and vice versa).

The supporting cast is a solid one -- including Julia Roberts as a warm but stern mom, Owen Wilson in cool dad mode (or so he thinks), Daveed Diggs (Hamilton) as a hip and caring teacher, Mandy Patinkin as the school's stoic principle, as well as Auggie's sister (played by Izabela Vidovic) and his on-and-off-again new best friend (Noah Jupe).

When it comes down to it, Wonder understands that everyone is fighting their own battles, whether it's on the inside our outside. And its message is simple, agreeable, and universal: Be kind.

( 7.5/10 )

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