Also recommended

From December 2000
Film Review

PURELY BELTER (Film of the Month)
• other November releases

Film Review Hotline
4 Stars- Recommended

Michael Douglas and Curtis Hanson talk about making WONDER BOYS in this issue

Michael Douglas and Katie Holmes in Wonder Boys

STARS: Michael Douglas, Katie Holmes,
Robert Downey Jr, Tobey Maguire,
Rip Torn, Frances McDormand

DIRECTOR: Curtis Hanson
SCREENPLAY: Steven Kloves
CERTIFICATE: 15DISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright: UIP
RUNNING TIME: 1hr 52 mins
OPENING DATE (UK): November 3

It’s All Academic

His first film since LA Confidential, and rather than the expected fanfare, Curtis Hanson’s Wonder Boys is a film that is fortunate to be aired at all.

Not that it’s bad, for this tale of mid-life crisis, easily matches Hanson’s celebrated film noir for incisiveness, albeit in an entirely different milieu. But already released in the US, the film was buried after poor box-office within a number of days, set to become a forgotten gem, until distributors decided to re-release it in its own country this autumn. Thankfully this reprieve has ensured it has avoided the straight-to-video hell that it may have had to endure.

Michael Douglas plays Grady Trip, a professor of literature at the University of Pittsburgh whose wife has just left him during the very week that his gay editor, Terry Crabtree (Downey Jr) is coming into town to collect the manuscript for his long-overdue second novel. As if to add to his problems, cute college girl Hannah (Holmes) has a crush on him, while he also discovers that a sexual encounter with the university chancellor (McDormand) has left her pregnant.

Based on the novel by Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys represents yet another process of maturity in the work of Hanson. With a cast to die for, Hanson is in full control of the narrative, eliciting both humour and pathos in this story that rivals American Beauty for its attempt to dissect the American middle-classes. Douglas gives his best performance since the days of his Oscar-winning effort Wall Street, while Maguire – who plays Grady’s distant and troubled star pupil – demonstrates once again just why he is one of finest actors of his generation.

While Holmes, McDormand and Downey Jr are offered substantially less ‘character’ to play with (often slipping into caricature, unfortunately), their considerable talents are enough to see this film through to the end. Written by screenwriter Kloves with a wry sense of detachment, Wonder Boys is both literate and entertaining – a rare quality indeed.

James Mottram

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Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction.

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Also reviewed online this month:
5 Stars; Excellent
PURELY BELTER (FILM OF THE MONTH) • released November 3


5 Stars; Excellent
Chopper • Nov 24
Singing in the Rain • Nov TBC

4 Stars; Recommended
Into the Arms of Strangers • Nov 24
The Yards • Nov 10

4 Stars; Recommended
Nov 17 • Way of the Gun
Nov 17 • Chuck and Buck
Nov 10 • Pitch Black
Nov 3 • The Golden Bowl
Nov 17 • Judy Berlin
Nov 24 • East-West