Wonder Boys (2000)
“Undependable. Unpredictable. Unforgettable.”
Wonder Boys (2000)
Director: Curtis Hanson
Cast: Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand
Synopsis: An English Professor tries to deal with his wife leaving him, the arrival of his editor who has been waiting for his book for seven years, and the various problems that his friends and associates involve him in.
Michael Douglas (King of California, Haywire) seems to be one of those omnipresent Hollywood stars who appears in every other picture the movie machine churns out, so it was something of a surprise to discover that this was only the ninth acting role he had undertaken in thirteen years. Douglas also lacks the kind of respected position enjoyed by some of his peers, despite having appeared in such notable movies as Falling Down, The Ghost and the Darkness, Traffic, and this movie, which deserved a much wider audience upon its release.
Douglas is terrific as a pot-smoking university professor with a tangled love life and an ongoing manuscript that has become an unwanted obsession. While looking the part of the rumpled professor, Douglas manages to deliver a performance that combines subtlety and understatement, and skilfully dispels any preconceived perceptions the audience may bring to the movie.
The film itself is intelligently written and leisurely paced; flirting occasionally with cliché and stereotype (the admiring and sexually available female student; the discovery of his protégé’s manuscript that is so much better than his own) it neatly sidesteps their pitfalls, choosing altogether more astute and surprising avenues to explore. While the comedy element seems a little unsure at times, and threatens to veer toward farce more than once, it manages to avoid spoiling the overall mood and quality of the picture.
Robert Downey Jr. (Due Date, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows), as Douglas’ gay publisher/editor gives a strong performance, failing by the smallest margin to outshine Douglas in the scenes that they share. Not sure if Wonder Boys was filmed before or after his struggle with his addictions, but we can only hope that he overcomes his demons to provide us with more such impressive performances.
(Reviewed 14th July 2002)