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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Wonder Boys (2000)



Reviews and Comments

Wonder Boys is, in many ways, a grand accomplishment of writing and character development. Unlike many critics who praised this film without reservation, however, I ultimately found the film too cold and unmoving to be a masterpiece. The main character is Grady Tripp, an English professor who wrote a great book once upon a time but can't pull together a follow-up. He crosses paths with an eccentric sort of student that may or may not be what he says he is but is probably some sort of genius. Numerous plot threads are juggled, but the idea is that Tripp is losing his grip on his life and, more pertinently, losing his ability to cope with issues beyond the immediate.

The film has an unusual tone to it. Some of Tripp's problems are real, if bizarre; others are unstoppered (and often unexpected) black comedy. "Wry" sums up the tone of the film. I enjoyed it. The interaction between the characters is like an elaborate ballet. Issues and individuals shift in and out of the picture with effortless coordination. It doesn't always make logical sense, but it always makes poetic sense. By the end we know the characters better than we would normally want to.

But, as I said, there is some hollow or failing inside this movie that makes this less than a masterwork. The experience is unique and in possession of many joys and much freshness. Nonetheless it was not an experience I see much more than gratuitous purpose for. This is not what one wants to be thinking after watching a movie that needs and strives to be so much more.