Wonder Boys

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/11/2000

Director Curtis Hanson’s low-key follow-up to L.A Confidential – a gentle comedy with a stand-out performance from Michael Douglas.

Douglas plays pot-smoking, 50-something literary professor Grady Tripp, a man suffering from writer’s block and having A Very Bad Day Indeed. His wife has left him, he’s having an affair with the wife of the department head (McDormand), his flamboyantly gay editor (Robert Downey Jnr, superbly cast and presumably on day-release) has arrived in town wondering where Tripp’s long-awaited second novel is. To top that his weird-but-gifted student James (Tobey Maguire, excellent as ever) has just accidentally shot and killed McDormand’s blind dog, setting the stage for a suitably weird weekend…

This may seem a surprising follow-up film, considering the critical and audience acclaim heaped on Hanson’s L.A.Confidential, three years ago. However, Hanson, having finally ditched the ‘talented hack’ tag, is obviously keen to prove he can ‘do’ light-hearted comedy, and he doesn’t disappoint.

The film, based on the comic novel by Michael Chabon, is somewhat reminiscent of Nobody’s Fool (which starred Paul Newman), in that it shares a similar mood, snowy locale (New England) and cast of likeable characters. In fact, the film is largely character-driven and Hanson is rewarded with a set of across-the-board excellent performances.

It’s refreshing to see Douglas not only playing his age, but for once having a credible relationship with someone roughly his own age – he even turns down Katie Holmes! To be fair, it’s not without flaws – not all that much actually happens, and the ending wraps things up a little too neatly.

However, it has a lot of heart, a few good lines, and a few laugh-out-loud scenes, and also features Maguire reeling off a mind-boggling list of celebrity suicides. In alphabetical order! Sadly, The Wonder Boys flopped in the US, but Miramax are optimistically re-releasing it in the hope of picking up a few Oscar nominations, and given the Weinstein’s genius for Oscar-gathering, don’t be surprised if Michael Douglas bags Best Actor come March 2001… Recommended.

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Content updated: 19/08/2019 12:35

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