Pittsburgh area college professor Michael Douglas faces a slew of crises as he struggles to complete the follow-up to his successful first novel. His wife has left him, his lover--the wife of his department's head--is pregnant, a student boarder is in love with him, and a troubled young writer sees Douglas as a mentor. Frances McDormand, Katie Holmes, Tobey Maguire also star in Curtis Hanson's adaptation of Michael Chabon's book.]]>
Wonder Boys (2000)
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Much of it is probably owed to Michael Douglas. In a refined, carefully controlled performance the actor packs on some 30 pounds and looks totally dishevelled as a burned out college professor with a fondness for marihuana.
Douglas' perfect portrayal completely carries the film. It is, in essence, a melancholic comedy. Hanson and the screenwriter use this mood to set-up some very interesting situations and present very unusual characters. The situations are aided by Dante Spinotti's captivating cinematography. And at some instances, things get so bizarre and madcap that you might think you're watching a Coen Brothers movie. Particularly in a very mean-spirited subplot involving the fate of a blind pit bull, and in a wildly amusing scene involving a car accident and Douglas' work in progress. I think of it as psychological slapstick comedy. The thinking man's pie-in-the-face. The story is riddled with stuff like this that borders on the absurd but is presented as matter-of-factly as possible.
The whole thing with Douglas' female student played by Katie Holmes, for instance. He rents her a room in his house. She clearly has a deep crush on him. And the irony here is that in a strange way this ends up being a parody of the cinematic sexual escapades that Douglas is known for... In another movie, he might have succumbed to her seductions, but he plays a very different low-key character here. Holmes plays the part perfectly too.Read more ›
Tripp also has a wife who announces she's leaving him and a mistress (chancellor of the school, as well as the wife of Grady's boss) who tells him she's pregnant. Add to the mix a sexy student who shacks up at Grady's house and the wonderful, brilliant, and horribly confused student played by Tobey Maguire - whose best scene, according to my 19yo son is when, in a marijuana fog, he gets the munchies, lifts the lid of a candy jar, and utters an unforgettable warble of unmitigated joy when he discovers lemon drops.
Then there's a blind dog that ends up dead in the trunk of Grady's car and a gorgeous jacket once owned by Marilyn Monroe, and, and, and...
First: I mean really "first." Before the movie starts, the screen is filled with the HORRIFYING message: "This film has been edited for content." WHAT???? This set up a sense of foreboding that never left me as I watched the movie. Not to worry: the content that was actually edited turns out to be in the list of celebrity suicides cited by Tobey in what I suppose is the movie's first act: Evidently, the theatrical version contained factual mistake[s].
Second: The sound is pretty dull. You'd think a picture that won its only Oscar for best song would have a digital track. It does not. Dolby 5.0 and 2.0 are your choices. Neither very attractive.
Third: Extra Features - REALLY lame. A running commentary by director Hanson would have been nice. The book's author, Michael Chabon, would have been even better. As it is, we get a whimsical tour through Pittsburg with the director. Blyuuck.
Fourth: There are annoying spots in the transfer where the image gets stuck and lines of dialog are lost. I know this has something to do with "layering" and, apparently, can't be avoided, but I've never seen it as bad as on this DVD.
Summing up: This movie never got the attention it deserved from audiences, and now it has gotten a sloppy DVD transfer. What a shame, because this was one of the better movies of 2000.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Loved the movie. Especially love Dylan's song Things have Changed in the beginning and end. Acting was great!Published 8 days ago by Patricia Kubaska
Good writing, interesting characters, superb music, I derail acting.Published 2 months ago by Kirsten Fleming
This is one of my favorite movies. I love it! Wonderful acting, interesting and very creative and entertaining story line. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Martha Abbot
Loved this flick. Reminded me of my own experiences at a university, though I was a hard math-science major, TA and later a teacher. Read morePublished 3 months ago by bronhaski
Well, to be fair, the novel is a literary jewel, and the movie doesn't do it justice but.....I actually WAS a creative writing major like James Leer in Pittsburgh around the time... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Susan Guzman