Thursday, 7 December 2017

Wonder (2017)

Born with a facial deformity, Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) has spent much of his life isolated from the rest of society. However, his parents decide that it's time to stop homeschooling him and send him out into the real world by having him go to a proper school. Will he fit in and manage to inspire and touch the hearts of everyone?

Ooooh, somebody's trying to fishing for Oscars. And what's the bait? Why, it's a film about a deformed kid who melts hearts and is based on a popular book. Thankfully, though, it's nowhere near the abysmal film the trailers were making it out to be.

There's not really much to this film. It's an overly simplistic little piece pandering those who don't really want any challenges, depth, or complexity but want to pretend that's what they're getting and give themselves a pat on the back for it. And how does one go about getting such an experience? Well, it's a secret but I'll tell you anyway: Get a deformity/disability/defect, make it look like you're exploring the pains and emotion but you're really just ticking boxes and skimming over the actual struggle and hiding it under gloopy sentimentality and speeches, before resolving everything with a smile and/or a tear. So it's either 'inspiring' or 'bittersweet'. Or both.

And that's exactly what 'Wonder' does. It's all about being inspiringly sentimental to the point where it intentionally neglects anything that will provide a closer examination of anyone or anything in the film because that would add complexity and, consequentially, murkiness to everything. Which was probably the most frustrating thing about the film because it actually starts to touch some nice ideas and then just drops them like a toddler who's bored with the fossil they've just picked up because there's some sparkly tinsel they've just seen. It is one of those cases where I just wanted to shout "What are you doing?!" at the film because it gives itself ample opportunity to provide a far richer film and the fact that it touched upon them shows how close it was.

I was fine with the ideas of shifting perspectives and how the central character has both a positive and negative effect on people and what they do and feel. But that just turns out to be a gimmick they throw in every so often that lasts a couple of minutes and ends up feeling a bit awkwardly out of place because they leave them dangling. I was also fine with the film taking a look a bullying (even if they make it too easy) and, when explored properly, it can be great (just look at 'A Silent Voice' a good example from this year). But no, they just turn it into the lazy thing of kid gets bullied but blandly overcomes it all without any real exploration of it or the consequences. Even the use of 'Star Wars' characters could have been elaborated on (although I did enjoy the imaginary Palpatine's reaction to the bully's insult).

To sum that up, there was the potential but the wants none of it. It just wants basic smiles and tears and it goes about that by skipping over any real issue and just showing a series of blandly staged conflict before things just resolve themselves in a supposedly touching and enlightening way. Sometimes it isn't even resolved on screen. Some of the things the films bring up are just suddenly fixed a little while later and you have to, ahem, wonder how that happened and when. Maybe that explains the film's title.

'Wonder' ultimately winds up being some faceless and forgettable film that's sole purpose seems to be to go for cheap smiles and tears by smothering the audience in that wretched and cloying sentimentality. It will try to have you believe that it is being profound and whatever but don't fall for it. Yes, it does hint at a more interesting film at times but it proves to be a gutless film as it does its best to quickly snuff out anything that would lead to anythign more complex than the blandly amnesia-inducing tale of a deformed kid bringing hope to everyone by not showing much personality.

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