Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Review of WONDER: Tugging at our Tears

December 6, 2017



August "Auggie" Pullman was born with a rare facial deformity and had been subjected to a series of surgeries to make him look better. He grew up sheltered and home-schooled by his family for his protection. When he reached middle school, his mother Isabel decided that Auggie should go to Beecher Prep, a regular private school. Auggie eventually made friends but with much difficulty after being treated like a freak and being bullied.

Young Jacob Tremblay already impressed me as an actor when he starred alongside Brie Larson in the movie "Room" (Lenny Abrahamson, 2015) (MY REVIEW). While Larson was winning almost all the Best Actress awards that season, including the Oscar, I thought that Tremblay, then only 7 years old when he did the film, should have been cited as well as Best Actor. He did get a nomination for Best Supporting Actor from the Screen Actors Guild. 

As Jack Newsome in "Room," Tremblay had to sport very long thick hair, for which a lot of people initially thought he was a girl. As Auggie with his rare congenital syndrome, Tremblay worked under a layer of prosthetics on his face (which reportedly took an hour and a half to put on each shooting day). Nevertheless, he was able to tug on our heartstrings with a very warm and brave performance of another difficult role. He had this richly emotive voice which you would like to take into your embrace as he told his story. 

Auggie was a lucky boy because he had a very supportive family behind him. His parents were played by two of Hollywood's most winsome actors Julia Roberts (as mom Isabel) and Owen Wilson (as dad Nate). Izabela Vidovic played his sister Via and Danielle Rose Russell played Via's close friend Miranda, both of whom had pretty evocative side stories to tell on their own. We also get treated to a welcome cameo of Ms. Sonia Braga playing the role of their grandmother.  The cute family dog Daisy (played by Gidget) also got significant screen time as the film pulled out all the sentimental stops. 

Child actor Noah Jupe only made his feature film debut this year 2017, but his role in "Wonder" as Auggie's best friend Jack Wills is already his third. I wish they cleared that part about Jack's moment of disloyalty. The motivation of those words he said was never addressed even though he had the opportunity to tell his story. While it may simply be dismissed by saying that these are only kids, but these kids were already introduced to us as sensitive and sensible. Such an unfortunate incident should have been given some sort of better explanation. 

I thought his bullying by the film's main antagonist Julian went on too long that the character became too one-dimensional, which was a pity because the child actor playing him, Bryce Gheisar, looked like he had more sides in him than what was shown. When we meet Julian's parents (Crystal Lowe and Steve Bacic) in that scene at the principal Mr. Tushman's (played by the ever cool Mandy Patinkin) office, this angle of this story went into needless overkill for me. 

You probably think that you've have seen a movie like this before. However, "Wonder" was not just about how a bullied boy got through middle school, told in the first person by Auggie himself. The film also took time to tell the stories of other kids from their own point of view. This gave us another perspective about how the world does not only revolve around special kids like Auggie, but other kids around him need time and understanding as well. 

This was a truly heartwarming film written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, who previously gave us "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (2012) (MY REVIEW). This is guaranteed to get your eyes misty, if not outright teary.  8/10


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