Sunday, February 18, 2018

Movie with Abe: Wonder

Directed by Stephen Chbosky
Released November 17, 2017

People who look different are usually frequent targets for bullying or discrimination. There is an interesting difference between how children and adults interact with and treat those who don’t look like them, since children may be less trained in how to control their initial reactions and subsequent displays of emotion while adults, if they are mature enough to not pass judgment, may be better at ensuring that they do not indicate any sort of negative connotations when they first lay their eyes on someone whose appearance is not as they expect. Either way, it can be a difficult road for someone who doesn’t fit in with the rest of his or her peers or society in general.

Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, and numerous surgeries have not been able to repair the deformities on his face. Having been previously homeschooled by his mother (Julia Roberts) and seen only under a NASA helmet out in public, Auggie begins fifth grade in a mainstream school. While he encounters bullies like Julian (Bryce Gheisar), he also makes an unexpected friend in Jack Will (Noah Jupe). As he struggles to find acceptance and some semblance of normalcy, his sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) contends with her own teenage experience and constantly being ignored by her mother and father (Owen Wilson) in favor of her brother.

This sweet, endearing film, based on the popular 2012 children’s novel by R.J. Palacio, structures its narrative in a creative way, showcasing how each of its characters view their universe. Via describes her family as living in orbit of her brother, and scenes play out from the perspectives of Auggie, Via, their mother, Jack Will, and Via’s best friend Miranda, each adding more information to Auggie’s unique experience out in the world. That format works extremely well, encapsulating Auggie’s immersion in normative life for the first time and showcasing its most influential and unforgettable moments.

Tremblay, who was excellent in “Room” a few years ago, demonstrates that he’s more than capable of portraying a range of different children, and whatever comes next in his career is sure to be great. Jupe is particularly terrific as well, and it’s great to see veteran performers like Roberts, Wilson, and Mandy Patinkin, who portrays the kindly school principal, lending support in a way that lets the young actors and the story shine. The film’s Oscar-nominated makeup is an undeniable asset as well, but it’s the script and the people who bring it to life that are deserving of the most commendation here in this film that should win over all ages and shares an inspiring message of acceptance and friendship.


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