REVIEW: “WONDER” (2017) Lionsgate

Standard

With Jacob Tremblay as Auggie“WONDER” bring us the sweet story based on the New York Times bestseller by R.J. Palacio. We get to know Auggie slowly during the film and find out about his ongoing life, like his twenty-seven surgeries on his face, how he keeps his hospital bracelets as souvenirs and how his supportive parents Isabel (Julia Roberts), and Nate (Owen Wilson) have decided to send him to school for the first time ever. See until now, Auggie has been home-schooled by Isabel, but it’s 5th grade and time for “real” school. While his face is without a doubt deformed, he is in no way as seriously damaged as say John Merrick – the famous The Elephant Man, or Rocky Dennis – the young man in Mask, (portrayed so wonderfully by Eric Stoltz), but we know this can’t be an easy decision for anyone involved. Auggie’s older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), also carries a burden that few understand and along with her childhood friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) they have their own vignette-type sequences where their stories are told. Vidovic is also probably the best casting of the film and this is very much her story as well.

The film kicks into gear once school starts. Mandy Patinkin plays the principal Mr. Tushman (a name he embraces), and we get the expected nice kid Jack Will (Noah Jupe), the girl who befriends him when others won’t Summer (Mille Davis), the rich-kid bully Julian (Bryce Gheisar), and the popular girl Charlotte (Elle McKinnon). Some of the characters have various segments of the film named after them, with each their own stories to tell, and though these are quite loosely told, they do provide some semblance of structure to the film and keep viewers focused on the diverse personalities. Along we go to thru the normal schoolings of any 5th grader really, with things such as the Science Fair (which of course they win), field trip (all inclusive with bullies & those who stand up to them) and school play – where of course miracles happen. While each of these little stories provide critical turning points, most of the film is based on Auggie’s impact on those whose path he crosses and some of them are sweet and touching, and some of them just seem the norm for any 5th grader really.

It’s a weird middle ground for a movie to exist in, a plot of hits & misses as it moves slowly through the story, almost as if it simply doesn’t trust itself to tell its own story and be understood. It simply misses the mark on some things, but yet on others, hits the nail on the head. Daveed Diggs has a nice turn as 5th grade class teacher Mr. Browne, and the always wonderful Sonia Braga makes a much-too-brief appearance in Via’s little vignette as Gran. Director Chbosky previously gave us the gem THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, and this time out he allows us to explore the fragility of friendship and family, and the importance of toughness in an individual, it simply seems to go through the motions at times of what is ‘supposed’ to happen. But I will say, there is something special about what unfolds between children beautifully captured here, though the ending is pure Hollywood. But we should accept the crowd-pleasing cheesiness and be thankful for a pleasant, entertaining family movie for the holiday season.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Thursday, November 9, 2017 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate
‘WONDER’ is out in theatres nationwide Friday, November 17, 2017

Advertisements

REVIEW: “ROOM” Q & A w/Author/Dir/Prod/Actor/Composer

Standard

room
At the start of Room we find “Ma” (Brie Larson) and her son “Jack” (Jacob Tremblay) living in a backyard shed they call “Room” and being held by their captor “Old Nick” (Sean Bridgers). Since Jack has never known there to be an outside world, he has no idea that anything exists outside of Room.

From that moment on it’s a ripped-from-the-headlines Law & Order:SVU episode, which isn’t to say that’s bad as I watch the show faithfully. I’m truly not giving anything away to state the obvious that Ma and Jack escape Room, as the movie is more about the ability of each to cope with the outside world. For Jack, everything from that point on is a completely new experience. Ma, despite having lived for 17 years in the ‘real world’ before being kidnapped as a teen, being held captive and having a child, encounters different obstacles – as the world has moved on, and she also encounters doubts about her own ability to be a mother to Jack.

I’d been expecting a suspenseful drama-thriller about a daring escape, and what it would entail and the follow-up to this as the movie is based on a novel by Emma Donoghue. As the first half of the film concentrates on life inside Room for Ma and Jack as all she has told and convinced Jack for five years that all is well and that what they have is a normal life, that what they see on television is not real, but everything from the single bed to the lidless toilet tank is definitely their reality. She does sacrifice much as she tries to keep Jack happy and safe, even to the point of giving herself over to her captor on a regular basis in exchange for food and other items for Jack and herself.
room 1
To say that this first half moves slowly would be to understate things. We don’t just get a slice of the life that they lead in Room – we actually get the entire pie, and most of it just isn’t all that exciting or intriguing. We do get to see a little into the characters of the characters but in any event, it’s just way to much time spent watching their every move which gets a bit monotonous and leads to some impatience with where they are heading with the film.

As we finally build up to the escape you have the only brief moment of suspense of the entire film. Once they do escape the focus quickly shifts from a struggle for survival to a struggle to understand. Ma’s parents, “Nancy” (Joan Allen) blink-and-you- miss-him William H. Macy as her dad “Robert”, have different reactions to the return of their daughter and the arrival of their grandson whom they didn’t even know existed. In the years since her abduction, her parents have separated; her mom now lives with her boyfriend “Leo” (Tom McCamus). Add in to all this the slew of media hype, lawyers, and so much more adding in to the stress of adapting to all of it sorta gives the impression that escaping may have been the easy part.

The acting is good..not great, but Larson’s has a few moments though can also be awkwardly annoying at times and the same can be said for young Jacob Tremblay though he carries himself very well and holds his own here.

But truly nothing can overcome what’s basically a tedious script and film. The movie is mostly a series of plodding events and could honestly have been titled as such as packs no punch at its core. Usually when there is no action, you look for meaning, but when there is no meaning or action, you look for the exit. The film suffers from spending too much time contemplating things and not enough time doing them – or even at the least discussing them.

Grade: C
@pegsatthemovies

Screening: Monday, October 12, 2015 – Courtesy of the A24 & PGA
In Theatres Nationwide

POST Q & A with Author/Screenwriter: Emma Donoghue, Director: Lenny Abrahamson, Actor: Jacob Tremblay, Composers & Producers

With a very full stage of everyone behind the movie including the young Jacob Tremblay who as an 8 year old..should have been in bed at 9:30pm on a weeknight..:D But they did go into some depth of how they made the film of getting Brie & Jacob to spend time together so as to get to know each other so as a child, Jacob would feel more comfortable. Directors & Producers talked about location shooting and the Composer on his musical choices for the film. Poor Jacob had the longest question I’ve ever heard asked to anyone at a Q & A, adult or child, to the point where the audience started to laugh..since not even I could keep up with the length of it, it was mostly about being a child actor and what he brought to the table..and I must say he answered as best he could. All in all, they did seem a great group to work with. Just wished I liked the film more.