(On Cable TV, October 2018) Frankly, I expected much worse from Wonder after seeing its rather misleading trailer. To believe the coming attraction, we have to brace ourselves for an entire film’s worth of seeing a facially disfigured boy trying to fit at a new school. But, as we know, trailers lie—or at least misdirect, because even if the film is about a facially disfigured boy’s adventures in fitting at his new school, it’s also quite a bit more than that, and in this case the subplots are what keeps the film interesting beyond its predictable premise. Wonder soon becomes about the boy’s entire family as they, too, experience that first year in school in their own way. There’s nothing truly earth-shattering here, and one of the mildest surprises of the film is how easy it goes on the inevitable scenes of cruelty and abuse by the boy’s schoolmates. The result is one of relief, as the film remains rather gentle and sympathetic in its approach. Jacob Tremblay continues to impress in the lead role, while other notables such as Owen Wilson, Mandy Patinkin and Julia Roberts take supporting roles in a youth-focused film. As a result, Wonder remains an enjoyable film … even for jaded curmudgeonly critics such as myself.
(On Cable TV, July 2016) One of the most curious facets of a developing movie critic’s mind is the ability to recognize competence and detach it from enjoyment. For various reasons, I find Room’s subject matter almost unbearable and I do not ever want to watch it ever again. It is, after all, the story of a young boy, result of years of abuse between a sexual psychopath and his captive subject—his world at the beginning of the film is solely limited to the room in which he and his mom are held captive. This is the kind of thing nightmares are made of, and if Room hadn’t come to cable TV channels with its “Oscar winning” distinction (and assorted armful of critical attention), there is no way I would have watched it. But it has won a boatload of awards, and watching the film underscores why: For one thing, it takes a terrible story and filters it through the innocent perspective of a young boy, making it less aggressive but more disturbing in its implications. The protagonist of the story arguably isn’t the viewpoint character (much of the third act is about the mom, even in absentia), and the antagonist disappears surprisingly quickly from the film. The script, interestingly enough, is written by Emma Donoghue, the author of the novel on which it is based. Room benefits greatly from a handful of good performances, the best of which (with apologies to the Oscar-winning Brie Larson) has to be Jacob Tremblay’s performance in the lead role. It’s also fiendishly clever in its cinematography, in showing the Room as its own expansive universe, and then revisiting it later to show its true oppressive confinement. But it’s also a story in which people get better, overcome terrible adversity and manage to move forward. For a small movie shot in suburban Toronto, it packs quite an emotional punch, even if it’s one that few will strictly enjoy. So there we go: A few reasons why Room is worth seeing at least once … even though you, too, may never want to see it again.