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Wonder (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 15, 2020


WONDER (2017)

Starring Julia Roberts, Jacob Tremblay, Owen Wilson, Mandy Patinkin, Ali Liebert, Crystal Lowe, Daveed Diggs, Izabela Vidovic, Nadji Jeter, Emma Tremblay, Noah Jupe, Millie Davis, Danielle Rose Russell, Bryce Gheisar, Elle McKinnon, Ty Consiglio, Kyle Breitkopf, James Hughes and Sonia Braga.

Screenplay by Stephen Chbosky and Steve Conrad and Jack Thorne.

Directed by Stephen Chbosky.

Distributed by Lionsgate. 113 minutes. Rated PG.

I read the YA novel Wonder (written by RJ Palacio) when it first came out in 2012. I instantly fell in love with Auggie’s story and have since passed it on to more friends (and strangers) than I can count. So, it was with both hope and anxiety that I went to watch the film version of Wonder. Even with the star-studded cast (Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Daveed Diggs, Mandy Patinkin, and, gasp, Jacob Tremblay in the lead role of Auggie), it was easy to imagine the 10,000 ways that they wouldn’t do the story justice.

Deep breath.

It was lovely. Truly. Maybe it was the five years since my last full read, beyond excerpts and precepts. Even my movie-going guests, my 15-year-old daughter and our family friend, a fourth-grade teacher – both of whom have read it again far more recently than I – loved the movie. With their recent reads, they were more apt to point out the details that they wish the movie had included, but were still happy with the choices made to keep the movie to its 1 hour 53-minute run time.

Let’s start with some actor/character discussion:

Jacob Tremblay is the actor that we’ve all been waiting for to play the important role of Auggie Pullman. In case you haven’t read the book, Auggie is our leading little man. He was born with a genetic facial disorder that has caused him to have 27 surgeries ranging from improving his ability to breathe and hear, to plastic surgery for some sense of facial normalcy.

This is primarily his story as he enters Middle School, leaving the shelter of homeschooling. Jacob was small and vulnerable, with the spot-on witty timing and grit that is Auggie. He handled every emotion just right, while working within the confines of the incredible makeup used to create Auggie’s face.

I don’t think I ever pictured Julia Roberts in the role of Isabel Pullman, Auggie’s mother, but I will NEVER be able to imagine anyone else in the role. She channeled her hard-earned inner mom with every Auggie interaction. I officially soaked my left sleeve from all of the tears I had to wipe away (note to self, bring a box of tissues when you watch this again) whenever she would look at Auggie with love, pride, anxiety and more.

Her interactions with teen daughter Via (Olivia), played by Izabela Vidovic, were far more reserved, but a) she’s a teen, b) that’s the full-on dynamic of a mom with a chronically ill child, and c) Via took over every scene with her poise, pain, and patience, leading to the soaking of my right sleeve (again, tissues are survival for this film).

I wanted to see more of Daveed Diggs (playing school teacher Mr. Browne) and Mandy Patinkin (playing school principal, Mr. Tushman), but as my movie mates reminded me, they didn’t have more scene time in the book either.  Both actors just worked so well in their roles.

Owen Wilson as Auggie’s father, Nate Pullman, was caring, goofy and affable – the role that Owen Wilson plays effortlessly.

The screenplay kept the most important scenes and storylines of the book, including the use of scenes told from the perspective of the individual characters. They even included the notable Wonder font to mark the start of each new character’s perspective. As the movie progressed, it meshed into a story told by all the characters and the name pages dropped, but it was still a solid nod to the character of the book. They also included the inner monologue creativity, including a nod (or two) to Chewbacca and Auggie’s inner space travel.

So yeah, I’m not telling you any more about the story. Just go see this movie-with your family, with your friends, or on your own. Just go. You will be happy that you did. And bring a box of tissues.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: November 17, 2017.

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