Some stories are patently obvious in their intent. A glance at the plot delivers all one needs to know about that story, from what to expect to a telling indicator of how one will feel about it. They say “you can’t judge a book by its cover,” but we all do and often what we expect is exactly what is delivered. And yet, sometimes, some rare times, what is delivered is much better than the expectations that story raises. That’s why the saying became a saying, and it is true. In regard to movies there are two from 2017 that I found much greater than the story premise that I encountered. The first is the firefighter film, Only the Brave. The second is Wonder.
Stephen Chbosky’s film, based on a book by R. J. Palacio, introduces us to Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a ten-year-old kid with a striking facial deformity who is going to public school for the first time. With that premise, it is easy to imagine the scenario that confronts the youngster: anxiety, bullying, humiliation, hopefully leavened by family support and friendship. Ultimate triumph as his classmates learn that accepting someone who looks different is not really difficult at all, and enriching for everyone. All of that is present in the story, delivered beautifully thanks to a first-rate script and a first-rate cast. And yet, there is much more to the movie.
It isn’t just Auggie’s story. Everyone in the family, and many of his schoolmates, are given opportunities to convey their experiences in relation to Auggie, and each other. I was touched by how the attention Auggie receives from his parents (Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson) takes attention away from his older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), and how Via’s situation with her brother parallels her situation with her best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell). How the casual cruelties of childhood can fester long afterward; how parents can rationalize irresponsible behavior as protection of their own children; how tiny moments and actions can bind people to each other at crucial times. The real beauty of this movie is how it demonstrates that kids are so resilient; much of that resilience seems to harden or fade away as we get older.
Yes, Wonder fulfilled all of the expectations I had for it upon seeing the preview. Thankfully it exceeded all of those expectations, in ways that I did not expect at all. The best movies introduce us to characters and experiences that we would have liked to know and share. Wonder does that. I wish I knew Auggie and his family; they seem like really great people. ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆. 17 January 2018.