WONDER EARNS ITS TEARS WITH GENUINE AND HEARTWARMING MORALS
It’s an age-old story; a person with some external difference to others faces great challenges as they attempt to make friends and be accepted by the larger society. Though the premise may be familiar, Wonder by director Stephen Chbosky (author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower) succeeds in crafting something fresh from its rather typical storyline. Its emotion is genuine and its story inspiring, and though there are moments obviously crafted to make one cry, the film earns its tears and laughter naturally.
Young August “Auggie” Pullman is a seemingly typical 10-year-old boy. He loves Star Wars, astronauts, video games, science and more. But unlike other kids, he was born with a facial deformity that has required years of surgeries. Homeschooled his entire life, Auggie’s parents finally decide to enroll him in public school. But can he survive schoolyard bullying and be accepted?
The premise here is fairly straightforward and rather predictable. One does not need to watch the film or read the novel it is based on per se to figure out how it all ends. But despite this narrative trajectory, Wonder still comes off as uplifting and entertaining and features some very good ensemble acting, especially from lead Jacob Tremblay.
The young Canadian actor first garnered widespread attention and acclaim for his role in 2015’s Room. Only 9 at the time, Tremblay tackled the dark and emotionally mature material of that film excellently and was in my sincere belief snubbed of an Academy Award nomination. He showed great promise in that role and he continues to show his precocious talent as Auggie. Hidden behind great makeup, Tremblay shines again as the vulnerable yet very bright boy. His emotions are real, his timing is natural and his spunk illuminates the screen. I like many others remain very optimistic of his career potentials.
Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, though a seemingly odd pairing, play the role of uncertain parents well, while actress Izabela Vidovic as Auggie’s older sister is too very naturally genuine and supportive. In fact, while the story is undoubtedly centered around Auggie, each supporting character has their own story of facing challenges that are individually spotlighted. This brings a well-rounded view of everyday struggles to the screen.
An Ugly Duckling sort of story, Wonder certainly has parallels to other similar literary and film characters. Auggie is a type of Quasimodo here sheltered in the Notre Dame that is his home until he finds acceptance and love outside its walls. There are moments clearly designed to make audiences cry (Why do I have to be so ugly?!) but the real emotions come from the small moments. The moments of kindness from other classmates, the unwavering love of his family, and Auggie’s tenacity and earning of respect from adults and kids alike.
It may be a fairly standard tale of not judging based on appearances and finding beauty within, but this film takes its well-known story material and presents it in a way that is still very enlightening.
Are some emotions contrived? Absolutely, but its never an assault on our feelings and its messages are clear and ever truthful and still compelling. Complimented by respectable acting particularly from Jacob Tremblay, Wonder works because like its protagonists its heart is in the right place. And sometimes with all the strife in the world, we need a feel-good story that shows there is always hope for humanity.