Projections - Movie Reviews

Wonder Boys Wonder Boys

How many times have we seen or heard of a promising student, worker, writer or musician only to see that first success often leads to fame, pressure then failure.  So many different names apply to these people, one hit wonders, flukes, freaks, wonder child, or simply lucky.

The film Wonder Boys addresses just this type of person.

Staring Michael Douglas as Grady Tripp, an author who, on his first attempt, achieves public and critical acclaim.  This is in the past.  The movie opens seven years later and Grady has yet to produce a follow-up.  In addition to the failure to complete a second novel, Grady is having problems with his teaching job at a college, problems with his marriage, and even bigger problems in the affair he is having with his department head's wife who also happens to be college chancellor.  Add into this a gifted young student, a young, sexy and almost groupie-ish tenant and this story leads to wonderful humor, tension and excitement.

Long missing Richard Thomas portrays Walter Gaskell, a pompous English department head who is fixated on the connection of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio and is wonderful with his ability to play a small part and fill it so completely.  Frances McDormand is the wife / chancellor / mistress as Sara Gaskell who happens to be carrying the unborn child of her lover Grady and provides great screen tension as well as a presence that is missing from so many other actresses of today.  Tobey Maguire carries the key supporting roll of James Lear, the gifted, insecure loaner student who Grady takes under his wing.  This odd boy / man forces Grady to reexamine his life, his drug and alcohol use and his very soul.  Now add into the mix Robert Downey Jr. as Crabtree, the publisher looking to regain his own fame with the follow-up novel from Grady; Katie Holmes as a coed tenant with a crush on Grady; Rip Torn as "Q", the famous author that Grady was supposed to be; and a blind dog with an attitude and you have a wonderful mix of very richly written and played characters.

This movie also reinforces that sex and nudity are not needed to show attraction, love and to fill screen time.  This well written piece covers a human being's fall into his own mind and self pity and just what the tolls of fame can be.  Expect the unexpected, revel in the pain the characters experience, know that we all face decisions, know that not making a decision is as bad or worse than making the wrong one, also remember that all our lives are nothing more than a novel in progress - write them well.

Wonder Boys
A Top Ten pick for 2000

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