Tag: Stephen Chbosky

Wonder

wonderIn a family friendly version of David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, director Stephen Chbosky has negotiated the foggy area between trite and truth in this engaging tale of triumph over adversity. It’s been a while between films for Chbosky who gave us the surprisingly good The Perks of Being a Wallflower back in 2012.  His latest outing is an adaptation of R.J. Palacio’s best selling novel Wonder—if you haven’t heard of it, your kids probably have.

Wonder tells the story of August Pullman, a ten-year-old boy deformed from birth due to a genetic disorder.  Having been shielded from the cruel taunts of the school playground, his homeschooling parents (played by Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts) feel it time to integrate Auggie into public school life.  The film is rife with harsh realities and tender moments as Auggie (and the people around him) adjust to the change.  Jacob Tremblay (Room) does a commendable job of playing the lead and presents a broad range of emotions despite the difficulties of dealing with a ton of facial prosthetic makeup.

Although Auggie provides the film with its narrative momentum, Wonder’s strength lies in how his circumstances affect, and ultimately inspire others; his sister dealing with being the forgotten sibling, the classmates who learn to accept him and others who reject him—they all learn important lessons brought about through self-examination.

Other than a chaptered structure which introduces the main players and their point-of-view, and a dusting of magical realism throughout, Wonder prudently avoids getting too caught up in the artifice of film, electing instead to tell its story simply and cleanly.

Wonder is not without a few false steps—Auggie’s dad (Owen Wilson) is relegated to a comic relief role which misses a unique opportunity to examine a father-son relationship, and moments throughout the film are prone to being too maudlin. Despite this, Wonder’s emotive qualities caught me off guard, and try as a might, I couldn’t keep a dry eye … some chilli-flakes must’ve fallen into my popcorn.

  

You can see my published reviews here.

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Perks of Taking Shelter

It been a couple of weeks since my last update. It is the beginning of term and so my focus has shifted towards my thesis and the cinema of Aronofsky. Things might be a little sporadic this year. To that end, I have recently revisited Aronofsky’s Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Fountain. I had forgotten just how good The Fountain is. Perhaps the end is a little overworked, but other than that, it is a masterpiece. I’m starting to snuggle my thoughts into the idea that Aronofsky’s films are examples of “cinema of absent presence”. A concept that I was introduced to in Dillon’s book The Solaris Effect. He examines how Tarkovsky, in his film Solaris, explored the relationship the viewer has with the screen fiction being observed; experiencing a reality, but in fact only observing celluloid. Woody Allen more directly explored similar ideas in The Purple Rose of Cairo and I believe Aronofsky is, perhaps unintentionally, stepping on similar grounds. Four of his five films appear to explore the haves and have-nots of cinema, and this is the direction I seem to be currently heading.

Of other films I have recently seen …

Jeff Nichol’s Take Shelter; I have heard a lot about Jeff Nichols but this is the first film of his that I’ve seen. Michael Shannon does an impressive job playing Curtis, a blue-collar worker who starts to suffer panic attacks resulting in visions and paranoia. The ensuing strained relationship with his wife is equally impressively played by Jessica Chastain. Perhaps a little overdrawn, this film is for the most part a superb and unique portrayal of a very real mental illness. Rating here.

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Take Shelter

The Perks of Being a Wallflower; “I feel … infinite”, a sentiment expressed by Charlie (played by Logan Lerman), which so aptly describes that feeling of youth. A kind of invincibility that we all felt when we were in that limbo period between child and adult. My brother described Perks as being a current day The Breakfast Club (despite being set in roughly the same era), which tonally describes this film well. There is, however, a lot more going on in this film. Directed and written (both book and screenplay) by Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, centers around Charlie. An awkward freshman desperate to fit in, he falls in with a group of empowering but quirky seniors. The film beautifully develops its characters and unfolds Charlie’s darker mysteries with good consideration. I found Perks to be well balanced, really well acted, and for me will probably be the surprise of the year … but to be fair I wasn’t expecting much. Rating here.

perks

The Perks of Being a Wallflower