By Adam Ray Palmer
In 2015, Todd Haynes spoilt us all with the delightful and enchanting Carol. Now, the filmmaker is back with his 2017 effort, Wonderstruck.
Based on the book by Brian Selznick; Wonderstruck stars Julianne Moore, Oakes Fegley and Michelle Williams.
Wonderstruck tells the story of a young boy named Ben (Fegley) in 1977 Minnesota who tries to piece together his life story whilst simultaneously there’s a parallel tale about a young girl named Rose (Millicent Simmonds) in New York from fifty years before as they both seek the same mysterious connection.
Let me get this out the way early, Wonderstruck is no Carol. Haynes tries to follow suit here with trying to leave the audience in a whimsical state but you don’t take anything away with you like you do with Carol. The film is extremely beautifully shot and I expected nothing less, but it feels bluntly hollow for such an emotive narrative.
What you get with Wonderstruck is text book Haynes. The colours on screen are spectacular and the juxtaposition between eras really elevates them. From 1927 and the black and white sequences to the funky 1977 with bright oranges and what feels like constant sunshine. You cannot move for awesome afros!
However, behind the stunning visuals, is a forlorn tale that struggles to get going until the final 15 minutes. The audience are taken on this adventure to learn alongside Ben but there’s just limited tangible material to sink our teeth into. I think that’s where the Carol comparisons come in. The sultry camera visuals in Carol are still quite apparent here but with very little gravitas and narrative substance backing them up.
I think Todd Haynes spoilt us with Carol and now the bar is set so high. Wonderstruck is still entertaining but it just takes too long to get into latter gears. The run time of two hours weighs heavy and a 90-minute feature would easily suffice. The final 15 minutes are warm and sew up all the answers you need, but there isn’t enough in the hour before for us to care too much.
The acting by Oakes, who dazzled in Pete’s Dragon, is on point. He has a lot to do in Wonderstruck and he seems a veteran even at his tender age. He must hold the film up nearly all on his own until Julianne Moore throws him a bone in the last quarter. She will always be a great support in movies, if you can see passed the dodgy prosthetics that is.
I’m still a big fan of Haynes, and whenever he brings out a new title, I’ll still be at the front of the queue. I just think Wonderstruck loses its way. On the flip side though, without the meticulous and creative eye of Haynes, this could have been a bore. I’m intrigued to see what the masses think of this movie... I’m thinking more Blunderstruck.
Cineroom’s rating: 3 stars
Wonderstruck is out in UK cinemas on 20th October 2017 – certificate PG