Tuesday, October 10, 2017


The main characters of WONDERSTRUCK
Going into WONDERSTRUCK I had heard some truly terrible things. Several people I know who saw it at festivals or early press screenings complained it was too much the book , that it didn't get the mix of drama and whimsy right, and that it was simply director Todd Haynes showing off. Sitting down for a screening t the New York Film Festival I found I didn't know what to expect.

Adapted by Brian Selznick for the screen from his own novel WONDERSTRUCK tells the dual story of a ten year old boy in the 1977 rens away to New York in order to find his father and the story of a young girl who goes to Manhattan to find her mother in  1927. Both are somehow connected and both end up at the Museum of Natural History.

Getting better as it goes along WONDERSTRUCK meanders all over the place for much of it's running time. Things happen because writer Selznick says they must. That's all fine and well and good in a novel but in a film that is striving to be something semi-realistic or magically real at least in the 1970's story the film never quite gains traction. Worse there are complications with the storytelling because director Haynes adds some flourishes to really signal the time the sections are set that aren't really necessary (such as music cues and background details).  In a weird way neither the writer nor the director seem to truly trust the story to carry it,with the result this often seems like a bad 1970's coming of age film.

Amazingly in the last 20 or 25 minutes the film finally comes together as the showy presentation disappears and the story, the two threads now joined, drives straight on to morning. The emotion in the end is glorious and thanks to Carter Burrell's score the film produces tears and overwhelming emotion in the audience the film  really hasn't earned.

In the end I really like the film, but I didn't love it even if I was crying at the end. Its a good film but not destined to be the classic it thinks it might be.

WONDERSTRUCK was the centerpiece film at the New York Film Festival. It opens next Friday in theaters

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