Reviewed by Joe Soria
Wonder Boys is a film not based on a comic book with a very corny title but rather on a popular novel by Michael Chabon. It also marks the follow up to director Curtis Hanson’s critically acclaimed film, L.A. Confidential. If you are expecting to see anything like L.A. Confidential, you won’t. You’ll see a movie about a writer named Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) who wrote one great book and instead of getting writer’s block , he has received the blessing of overwriting. He writing pages and pages of material, all which is basically unreadable ramblings of a madman. While writing, he also teaches at a local college. This is where Robert Downey Jr. comes in.
Robert Downey Jr. is Grady’s editor who is dying to see this long awaited sequel manuscript in any form. He comes from the big city to check on his favorite client, his only successful client. Grady doesn’t want him near it. Besides being an editor, he’s also a bit of a crazy man. He likes living on the edge, he’s the life of the party and accompanies Grady to a party. The chancellor of the school (Frances McDormand) that Grady, works for, Sara, is hosting this party. Grady is involved with this chancellor secretly even though she’s married to a very powerful man. McDormand is the Academy Award winning actress from such films as the amazing Fargo.
This party of the centerpiece of the movie. It sets up Grady’s relationships with Sara, James and Hanna. James and Hanna are students of Grady, two very different students. James (Tobey Maguire) is his most talented student yet very troubled student. Hanna (Katie Holmes) is in infatuated with Grady and also rents an apartment from Grady due to monetary constraints beyond her control.
The film is just a whole bunch of occurrences, a true story about nothing. It’s entertaining, there are good performances and it’s a very smart script. It tells the story of loneliness and how a man deals with it. A man has a week that causes him to make a necessary choice in life. It has meaning, it just gets lost in a sort of extremism and extreme sarcastic subtle humor, but I liked it. All elements are colliding; his adulterous affair, his troubled student, his delayed novel are due to be resolved. The film progresses like a turtle. It's very slow and steady but by the end it's a winner.
Micheal Douglas puts in one of the best performances of his career. He looks bummy and dirty and gets the character down to a "t", a truly great comedic performance. Robert Downey Jr. does his same old shtick but it works and is a valuable contribution to thee film. Frances McDormand's performance is borderline. She's very strong at some points but at other points awfully weak and a sore point in the film. Sort of their in background lost in a sea of characters.
The music is excellent as well. Besides a new tune by Dylan, classic songs by Dylan, John Lennon, Van Morrison also show up. My favorite thing about the film was the script it's rich with darkness and lightheartedness, a well written piece of work by Steven Cloves. Tobey Maguire is pretty good as the trouble, but promising student James. Katie Holmes, on the other hand, is hideously underused and a true non-factor.
Imagine a subtle-humored 2 hour episode of “Seinfeld”. That's how I'd describe this film in one line. I would recommend this film to anyone who just want to see a movie about nothing. Everyone misses "Seinfeld", I guess when I have the chance I have to include it and Wonder Boys give me that chance. I
Review: *** stars/ 71 out of 100
Running Time: 125 minutes
Cast: Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Katie Holmes, Robert Downey Jr.
Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Written by: Steven Kloves
Rated R for language and drug content.
an awesome new Bob Dylan songs along with some classic songs.