“Wonderstruck” Underwhelms

Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes, 2017)*

How I wish I did not dislike this movie so much. Its intentions are good, and it features a strong performance from young newcomer Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actress cast in a deaf role (something we don’t see very often), but such things do not a good film make, on their own, alas. Based on Brian Selznick’s 2011 half-text/half-graphic novel of the same title, Wonderstruck follows two parallel stories, the one in 1927, the other in 1977, each with a child at its center. In the book, the earlier story is the one told in pictures, while the more modern tale is related in text, a device which allows Selznick to interrupt the one with the other in dramatic fashion.

Unfortunately, director Todd Haynes (Carol), usually a reliable filmmaker, especially in the arena of production design, does nothing more interesting in the older scenes than film them in black & white, with sets that evoke no period mood at all, though Simmonds is quite fine on her own. The rest of the cast is uneven, and even the great Julianne Moore (Still Alice) barely rises above the trite emotions of the script … until the last act, when the movie suddenly comes alive – inspired by New York’s famed city diorama, in Queens – rising to magical heights of creative design. Where, one asks, was this inspiration, before? It almost makes up for the insipid mess of the earlier scenes, but not quite. I have admired Haynes’ work until now, and hope to again in the future, but I cannot endorse this one.

*[this review was previously published as part of coverage of the recent Middleburg Film Festival that I wrote for Film Festival Today.]

6 Reviews + 1 Interview: “Cocaine Prison,” “Dina,” Criterion’s “Exterminating Angel” & Interview with Mathew Klickstein @hammertonail + “1922,” “Goodbye Christopher Robin” & “Thank You for Your Service” @filmfesttoday

In the past two weeks, the following pieces of mine have posted: at Hammer to Nail, reviews of Cocaine Prison, Dina and Criterion’s Blu-ray of Exterminating Angel, plus an interview with filmmaker Mathew Klickstein about his new documentary On Your Marc; at Film Festival Today, reviews of Netflix’s 1922, as well as of Goodbye Christopher Robin and Thank You for Your Service. Here are links to all 7 pieces:

Enjoy!

4 Reviews + 1 Podcast: “Bending the Arc” & “Human Flow” @hammertonail + “The Foreigner” & “Marshall” @filmfesttoday + “Blade Runner” & “Blade Runner 2049” @roughlyspeaking

Since my last omnibus post, I have written, or participated in, the following movie reviews: at Hammer to Nail, reviews of Bending the Arc and Human Flow; at Film Festival Today, reviews of The Foreigner and Marshall; and on The Baltimore Sun‘s “Roughly Speaking” podcast – with Dan Rodricks and Linda DeLibero – an episode on the original 1982 Blade Runner and its just-released sequel, Blade Runner 2049. Here are links to all 5 pieces:

Enjoy!

5 Reviews + 1 Interview (in 2 Parts) Last Week: Criterion’s “Multiple Maniacs” & “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” + “Lucky” & “We’re Still Together” + Interview w/ Peter Bratt & Dolores Huerta @hammertonail + “Battle of the Sexes” @filmfesttoday

Over the past week or so, I had the following film pieces posted at Hammer to Nail: reviews of Criterion Blu-rays of Multiple Maniacs and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; reviews of new theatrical releases Lucky and We’re Still Together; and a two-part interview with director Peter Bratt and subject Dolores Huerta, of the new documentary Dolores (reviewed earlier). At Film Festival Today last Friday, I ran a review of the new film Battle of the Sexes. Here are links to all 7 articles:

Enjoy!

1 Interview + 3 Reviews from Last Week: Janicza Bravo @hammertonail + “Good Time,” “Wind River” & “Leap!” @filmfesttoday

In the last week, I have written – and had posted – the following pieces: an interview with director Janicza Bravo (Lemon) at Hammer to Nail; reviews of Good TimeWind River and Leap! at Film Festival Today. Here are links to all four articles:

Enjoy!

2 Reviews from Last Week: “Ingrid Goes West” @hammertonail + “The Glass Castle” @filmfesttoday

For this Friday, I have nothing new to review (though I am working on a review of Good Time (for Film Festival Today), which has already opened in New York and Los Angeles and opens in Baltimore on August 25. For now, then, here are two reviews I ran last week: Ingrid Goes West (at Hammer to Nail) and The Glass Castle (at Film Festival Today):

Enjoy!

2 Reviews + 2 Interviews – for “An Inconvenient Sequel” and “Menashe” @hammertonail & Review of “Atomic Blonde” @filmfesttoday

Last week, Hammer to Nail published four more articles of mine: a review of An Inconvenient Sequel, just released, but which I had previously seen at the recent AFI DOCS; an interview with its co-directors, Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk; a review of Menashe, also just released, which I had seen at the Washington Jewish Film Festival; and an interview with its director, Joshua Z. Weinstein, and star, Menashe Lustig (with both of whom I spoke by phone, hence no photo of the interview, above). In addition, Film Festival Today published my review of Atomic Blonde. Here are links to all five pieces:

Enjoy!