“Wonderstruck”: A Film Review

Posted: November 10th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema | No Comments »

So enamored am I with film, that there occur moments to be savored and cherished, sometimes for just a scene or two, sometimes for the entirety of a movie, when the screen is so cinematic that it is nothing short of a marvel.

When the whole is all there is, when the sight and sound and story meld and insinuate in full.

So it is with most all of Todd Haynes latest “Wonderstruck,” which is, oh well I can’t help myself, forgive me Lord, wondrous.

It is the eventually intertwined tale of two youngsters, one in 1977 from Minnesota struck deaf by lightning after his mother dies, the other a half century earlier from Hoboken born without hearing.

Ben (Oakes Fegley) runs away, hops a bus to NYC in search for his father of whom his mom was loathe to speak.

Rose (Millicent Simmonds) so too heads for the city by ferry to escape a rich, uncaring father and seek out a silent movie star (Julianne Moore) with whom she is smitten.

Ben’s story is told in color to the classic funk of the time, Deodato’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra.” The scenes in New York are shot as if a blaxsploitation, grimy, the characters flamin’ feet burnin’ up the Manhattan summer streets.

Rose’s tale is silent film, black and white, full with exaggerated gesture — except for the delightful Ms. Simmonds whose eyes are storytellers unto themselves — devoid of dialog, to the harmony of musical manipulation.

The opening, especially that of Ben in Minnesota, is a bit laborious. But once the two reach the Big Apple, the film takes flight.

This is an homage to The City, forgiving but less overly romanticized. It also pays its respects to childhood curiosity and fortitude.

Director Todd Haynes uses the full moviemaking palette. But it is seamless, never for show and meant to gently propel this story forward.

It is obvious, despite the 50 year difference in time frame, that the tales of the two youngsters shall somehow eventually connect. And so they do, in a manner endearing, somewhat surprising and devoid of artifice.

The story is lovely, full with hope fulfilled. In lesser hands than Haynes, it might have turned into cotton candy. Instead there is depth and resonance.

Such is the brilliance of the process, the costumes, editing, art direction, use of all available tools of the trade that for me, the story could have been an afterthought and the movie would have worked.

But it is not.

Ben and Rose are connected, and not just by the similar quests they ventured upon in search of discovery.

I was — Oh I shall fall into the pit of cliché — wonderstruck.

— c d kaplan

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