"Sometimes people just need to be rescued"
Wonder Boys
Review by Ross Anthony

"Wonder Boys?" I don't get that title. Here's some more appropriate designations: "Writing Between the lines," "The Never-ending Story," "Grading Grady," or "What's Biting Grady Tripp." Named befittingly or not, it's a good film.

The trailers leave you with the scent of "As Good as it Gets" ... the gruff writer, the pesky dog, the gay friend. Douglas' voice is even beginning to sound similar to that of Jack Nicholson. And while "Wonder Boys" really does have the look/feel of the aforementioned film, it's still its own story.

Grady Tripp (Douglas) occasionally narrates this half a week or less in his life. "I was distracted, maybe by the fact that my wife had left me that morning. I don't know - wives have left me before." He's a college Prof. whose follow-up to a well-received book he'd authored seven years back has been in progress a little too long. Editor/publisher Downey Jr. is flying in to check its headway. Frances McDormand is the lover with a bit of news to add to Grady's overdose of circumstance. Morose student James (Tobey Maguire) is the inadvertent catalyst that unintentionally wheedles these disorderly 48 hours into a sum greater than just two days for Grady Tripp.

After Grady returns to his estranged wife's childhood home, he encounters her father. "What were you doing while my daughter was feeling unattended?" Grady, "I've been working on my book." Father dispassionately, "I hope it's a really good book."

Frances McDormand is awesome as the wonderfully rich "other woman." A finely scripted character brought to life by a skilled professional. The same goes for Robert Downey Jr. and his role. Heck, Maguire deserves comment too.

I'm usually rather tentative about Douglas himself, but he's certainly captivating and bathrobe comfortable in his role as the grovelly, pot-toking intellectual.

(Oh, here it is now, in the press notes, "A wonder boy is someone who's had great success early in life and then has to face the fear and insecurity of forever living up to himself." I still like my alternates better.)

  • Wonder Boys. Copyright © 2000. Rated R.
  • Starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Robert Downey Jr., Katie Holmes, Rip Torn.
  • Directed by Curtis Hanson.
  • Screenplay by Steve Kloves.
  • Produced by Scott Rudin and Curtis Hanson at Mutual/Paramount.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:50:09 PDT