New-Release Tuesday: Wonderstruck

Past the Popcorn provides South King Media with exclusive reviews of Theatrical and Home Video entertainment. We aim to dig just a little deeper than the surface of what we watch.

New to Amazon Prime, this Amazon Original is a film that deserves a poem, not a review. Since I do happen to be a poet, I suppose I could give it a stab… but I would really prefer that people hear about this film rather than be distracted by an abstract piece of art written about another piece of art. That sounds like something A. O. Scott might attempt… but that’s another poem.

For years, Todd Haynes has been turning out obtuse works of Cinema, capital c. Perhaps the strangest of these was 2007’s I’m Not There, a pseudobiopic roman a clef about Bob Dylan. Sort of. In which Dylan, or the Character Who Would Be Dylan, was variously played by a dozen or so actors, both male and female. Nuff said.

Well, this time out Haynes has partenered with Amazon to produce a highly personal, intimate, and decidedly powerful film about the role that wonder may play in our world, if we choose but to see.

In the wake of an improbable “act of God,” a young boy named Ben embarks on a quest to New York City to find the father he has never known. Haynes follows Ben on this trek while also telling us the more or less parallel tale of another child, a girl named Rose, who also sets out for the Big Apple in search of silent film star Lillian Mayhew.

Their stories inevitably intersect, as one might expect, given that this is a movie… right? So no spoiler there. But Ben’s and Rose’s paths collide in a most unexpected and touching way.

Now, is Haynes’ film all sewn up (impenetrably) tight like a Coen Brothers film? No. In true cinematic tradition, there are deus ex machina conveniences that crop up from time to time.

But you know what? That’s part of the point of Haynes’ film: Art imitates life, lunkheads! If you look around you, really look around you, God–the Universe, the Earth Mother, Ahura Mazda, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for crying out loud, if you so desire–is orchestrating things like you wouldn’t believe. Like you wouldn’t believe. Like. you. would. not. believe.

To discover that, sometimes you have to be struck deaf. Sometimes you have to learn to hear all over again. Sometimes you have to have things taken away that you thought you could not live without. Sometimes you have to let friends go in order to get them back.

We all get thrown curve balls. And sometimes we get beaned… but that’s not the only way to see stars. With a little practice, who knows? Maybe you’ll wind up wonderstruck.

Even if you hate it, this is a film that deserves all kinds of awards… which it didn’t get. Oakes Fegley is amazing as Ben, and Julianne Moore is sharp in dual roles. Brian Selznick’s screen adaptation of his own book is brilliant, the direction near flawless, the soundtrack… oh my gosh. I can easily see why they are releasing Carter Burwell’s music for this film on vinyl.

I’m just betting, though, that 9 out of 20 people who take my recommendation and see this film will hate it. And wonder what kind of crackpot I am.

Well, I have always been the kind of crackpot who sees stars from my corner of the gutter and writes poetry.

Which you would also probably hate.

And that’s okay by me. Art is not made one-size-fits-all. Go figure.

Wonderstruck is free with Amazon Prime, and can also be streamed on Youtube.


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