Nov 17

“Wonder” Movie: The “Choose Kind” Movement

‘Wonder’ Makes A Case For The Classic Tear-Jerker. Leigh Blickley, HuffPost

Anti-Bullying Tale Is a Tasteful Tear-Jerker. Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

...a tear-jerker that earns your tears. Chris Nashawaty,

Get the picture? Stephen Chbosky‘s new film Wonder is a wonder-ful weepie.

Its power cast includes Jacob Tremblay (the boy in the critically acclaimed 2015 Room) as well as Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as his parents.

Description of the plot from Rotten Tomatoes:

Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman. Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to find their compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

Gleiberman points out that the title of  R.J.Palacio’s novel (2012), on which the film is based, derived from Natalie Merchant‘s old song about a female overcoming a physical disability. I know it well: Doctors have come from distant cities, just to see me/Stand over my bed, disbelieving what they’re seeing…

And the book, notes Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter, actually “sparked a ‘Choose Kind’ movement — ‘kind’ as in ‘kindness,’or what the world needs now…” Click Choose Kind for more info.

As for the film’s style, apparently it follows the book’s lead. Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter:

The narrative is divided into chapters, each dedicated to the perspective of one of the young characters, and sometimes doubles back on events, lending new facets and dimension. First up is Auggie, who enters the fifth-grade fray with the slouch of someone who’d rather not face other people’s discomfort. His older sister, Via (sensitively played by Izabela Vidovic), gets a chapter, as do her former best friend, Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), and Auggie’s new school buddy Jack (Noah Jupe), a genial scholarship student with an unsteady sense of loyalty. With commendable concision and insight, the film sympathetically reveals the challenges they each face on the home front. Even the villainous Julian gets a redemptive aha moment.

The Trailer

Selected Reviews

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap: “…a celebration of empathy, a reminder that even the people who might be making us miserable have their own problems and their own people who are making them miserable.”

Owen Gleiberman, Variety: “…a drama of disarmingly level-headed empathy that glides along with wit, assurance, and grace, and has something touching and resonant to say about the current climate of American bullying.”

Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction: “It’s probably not a shocker to learn [this] is gonna make you cry. What is a heartrending surprise is how gently it delivers its earnest profundity on the ripple effect of kindness.”

David Ehrlich, IndieWire: “It’s a how-to guide for kindness — a good lesson for kids, and a helpful reminder for adults. It’s not like the world couldn’t use one.”

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: “Despite all these people orbiting around him, Auggie remains ‘Wonder’s’ main event, and though its upbeat earnestness is ever-present, it has the integrity to understand that not even kindness can eliminate all problems.”

Sep 07

“She’s Funny That Way”: Another Inappropriate Therapist

The cast of Peter Bogdanovich‘s comedy She’s Funny That Way (2014) includes Jennifer Aniston, who’s garnered a significant amount of praise for her role as an inappropriate therapist.

A brief synopsis of the plot from Alonso Duralde, The Wrap:

Izzy (Imogen Poots) tells reporter Judy (Illeana Douglas) all about her crazy climb from call girl to famous actress, thanks to director Arnold (Owen Wilson, still in ‘Midnight in Paris’ mode), who has a habit of giving escorts enough money to change professions. Little does he realize that Izzy’s next audition in her newly-launched acting career will be for his own Broadway show, opposite his wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn, playing a more sympathetic character than usual) and lothario Seth (Rhys Ifans), who carries a torch for Delta and who witnessed Izzy coming out of Arnold’s room the morning after their night together.

But wait, there are more subplots. Jessica Kiang, Indiewire:

  • In her call girl/muse persona, Izzy enraptures an elderly judge (Austin Pendleton), who hires an equally aged private detective (George Morfogen) to follow her (love the throwaway gag that the detective agency’s motto is the forlorn ‘We’re never too busy’).
  • This gumshoe (the film is dotted with archaic slang) just so happens to be the father of the Broadway show’s writer (Will Forte), who also falls for Izzy, despite dating hard-ass therapist Jane (Jennifer Aniston), who is the judge’s analyst.
  • And Izzy’s. Delta and Gilbert have an ongoing flirtation, though Gilbert also patronizes Vicki’s (Debi Mazar) escort service, at one point hiring a delightfully dim-bulb Lucy Punch.

Unfortunately, this star-studded movie has generally been panned. A couple reviewers’ slams of She’s Funny That Way:

Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly: “She’s pretty much a turkey, actually…”

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “It’s a zany sex farce, less like a 1930s screwball comedy than like one of those faux-naughty comedies from the mid-1960s, and it’s as phony as those movies, without contact with real emotion or even with recognizable human behavior.”

The Shrink: How Unprofessional! Then Again, It Is a Farce

Robbie Collin, Telegraph, calls Jane “the world’s least sympathetic, least discreet therapist.”

Guy Lodge, Variety: “[Aniston] gleefully fashions Jane as a sociopathic psychotherapist to rival Dr. Fiona Wallice…(‘I’m not judgmental,’ she snaps to one terrified client who has just confessed a crippling romantic fixation, ‘but that’s just stupid.’)”

Still Want to See the Trailer?

In this preview of She’s Funny That Way you’ll get a pretty good idea of the various complications as well as the unacceptable-if-this-were-real-life therapist behavior: