Nico’s Movie Review: ‘Wonder’ Walks A Fine Line Expertly
Wonder is introduced and sold as a movie about a boy who has a condition that makes him the target of stares, whispers and oftentimes outright bullying. But, that doesn't tell the whole story; not even close.
Based on a best-selling book, Wonder goes beyond expectations, and manages to spell out a powerful message without pushing the film and narrative into annoying territory.
The film begins as 10-year-old Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a boy with Treacher Collins syndrome, is getting ready to enter the 5th grade; for all of his life, his parents had kept him home-schooled for fear of negative reactions due to Auggie's appearance.
At first, things go as you expect; Auggie is bullied, but he eventually befriends one boy who he believes he can trust.
However, about half an hour into Wonder, the perspective suddenly changes; now we're following Auggie's sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), as she goes through high school. We experience her life of being ignored, because her parents spend all their attention on Auggie.
As the film progresses (and it does progress, over a LONG time; it has a running time of 113 minutes) the narrative unfolds and we begin to see the web of family and friends that influence and are influenced by Auggie. As Vie puts it, "our family is like the solar system; everything orbits around the son."
Wonder does so many things well. The acting is fantastic, from almost everyone. Julia Roberts does a pretty good job as the loving, but stressed mother who set aside her life to care for her child, while Owen Wilson really sells the "dad who loves his kids more than life itself, but doesn't quite know how to express it." In fact, I'd forgotten at how good an actor Wilson is, particularly comedically; I've never seen a theater break into laughter over so many subtle facial movements before.
This film has a great grasp of show, not tell as well, and it allows these actors to shine. A slight eye opening, or a look from one character to another, says so much more than words could ever say in that moment. Vidovic as Via does a particularly good job at this.
The one main problem Wonder has, though, is a problem that happens in many films about children; these kids often don't talk like kids. Most of the time, these instances are narration, but it still stands out as unrealistic. However, this film is also incredibly realistic with its portrayal of youthful cruelty. Those of us who were bullied in middle school know how cruel children can be to one another, and oftentimes there's no real reason for it.
There are a few moments where Wonder gets a little heavy handed and cliche, but I feel it strikes a good balance and doesn't become ham-fisted and annoying. It's heartwarming, and well worth your time.
I'd wholeheartedly recommend giving Wonder a view; you can see the trailer below.