Wonderstruck Review – Magical, Enchanting, Drama Highlights The Road of Life

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Wonderstruck, from Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions, presents a unique story of fates and time intersecting as a boy in search of his father is led almost magically through the maze of dangers to revelation.

Directed by Todd Hayes, Wonderstruck stars Julianne Moore, Michele Williams, Oakes Fegley, Jaden Michael, Tom Noonan, Amy Hargraves, and introducing Millicent Simmonds as Rose. Wonderstruck was based on the book of the same name and written for the screen by Brian Selznick.

Wonderstruck begins in 1926. A young girl, played by Millicent Simmonds, long pale red hair looking through a magazine seeing a starlet, Lillian Mayhew, played by Julianne Moore. She rips the advertisement out of the magazine and as we are no in her world, the shouting of the shopkeeper is unheard.

Rose is deaf and in 1926 a deaf child has limited options. Heading to the theater she watches in amazement as her idol brings the theater goers to tears in the era of silent movies. Rose, fresh from seeing emotion in the silent world, heads back to New Jersey, hoping for help, a miracle, hearing.

She decides she will runaway to Manhattan to find her mother.


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Now we are in Minnesota, a young boy, Ben, played by Oakes Fegley, is lying in bed unable to sleep makes his way out to what looks like a boathouse. His cousin Janet, played by Morgan Turner, a teen, is dressed up in his mother's robe, playing David Bowie unaware she is caught.

After he persuaded her to leave he is sitting in his "old" house when the recent memories come flooding back. He is celebrating his birthday. His mom, Elaine, played by Michelle Williams, is trying to stop the questioning as she gives him one last Birthday. He peppers her with questions: Is he a scientists? That's what I want to know who my father was.

Ben is at an age where the usual distraction don't work any longer and eventually she will have to explain who his father was. Tonight however isn't one of those nights and soon he was asleep. Now looking around the packed boxes he pulls out a newspaper clipping that explains.

A book, Wonderstruck, that was given to his mom and inside the jacket a bookmark of a bookshop in New York City and a small note, "Elaine, I'll wait forever, Danny."

He knew Danny had to be his father and decided he would call the book store in New York. Just at that time a massive mid-western storm strikes with booming claps of thunder, jagged zig-zagging lightening, suddenly the electrical wire to the house are hit by a bolt of lightning, sending electrical shock waves through the wires.

Suddenly we are in the hospital and Ben, on the search for his father, is deaf.

Unable to hear, he shouts and his Aunt Jenny, played by Amy Hargreaves, explains you can talk fine, you just can't hear.

Suddenly, with only the rainy day fund, Ben, now deaf decides to run away and is off to New York City to find his father.

As time, fate, the intersection of destinies would have it, each of our children, one in 1926 and one in the 1970's come to New York City to find their missing parent.

By chance, fate, kismet, happenstance would have it they both end up at New York City's Museum of Natural History, an imposing structure guarded by a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt. It is at this point in each of the vignettes that we are treated to the inner workings of the great halls which hold the wonders of many worlds.


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Wonderstruck is an enchanted trip through two different worlds. In each we are held by the heartbreak of two different children who are at a place where desperation has overtaken them and with caution to the wind and a trust in the cosmic gods or God, they set off undeterred knowing the end is written in the stars.

Initially, until the lives interest, the film runs in two separate veins, the black and white version with Rose, as a child, played by deaf actress Millicent Simmond and the color 1970's version of New York City.

Anyone who has ever lived in Manhattan or seen any of the early films depicting Times Square before the "clean-up" will recognize the seedy draw of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. And even the neighborhoods on the now trendy Upper West Side before the Liberals, Artists, and hopeful's moved in with Wall Street money and forced "the element" out of the neighborhood.

Wonderstruck lives up to its name and offers nuances of destiny, a magical intervention, as lives overlap one another as if to make right some oversight.

The Museum, contemporary and early turn of the century, is hypnotizing place for two young curious boys, Ben, and Jamie, played by Jaden Michael, the only friend he has found in New York City as Ben struggles, unable to hear, looking for his father.

Both writer Brian Selznick and Director Todd Haynes didn't miss a beat in intersecting each possible knot in a thread which at the end is explained at the Queens Museum as two walk through the Panorama of New York City, a stunning recreation of a the city and surrounding boroughs.

An awesome film that leads viewers on trips back in time and through the Great Halls and mammoth displays, and more so to see the intricacies of the behind the scenes work is a real treat.

Wonderstruck is enchanting, charming and a chance for those who have never seen New York City's Museum of Natural History or the Queen's Museum Panorama to get a glimpse. Delightful and fascinating.

Wonderstruck opens Friday, October 20. See it.

 

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