Heartwarmer: 'Wonder' is delectable family fare
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Writer: Stephen Chbosky, Steve Conrad, Jack Thorne, R.J. Palacio (Novel)
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Noah Jupe, Izabela Vidovic
Rated: PG for thematic elements including bullying, and some mild language
Synopsis: When Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) was born with a facial deformity the odds of him ever living a normal life were quickly set aside for a long road of surgeries just to keep him alive. Growing up, Auggie lived a life of solitude. He was homeschooled by his mother (Julia Roberts) and when the family, which includes his older sister (Izabela Vidovic), go out Auggie wears a toy astronaut’s helmet. But now it is time for Auggie to go to a public school and begin to integrate into the outside world.
Review: Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is one of my favorite books and his film adaptation with Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller will always be dear to me.
Not everyone liked “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which is fine, but to me it was a perfect interpretation of my high school years. It was the John Hughes film written specifically for me.
“Wonder” is going to be fairly divisive. Some will dismiss it as a film that was made to pull your heartstrings, a sugary concoction to make audiences feel better about the world. Others will find parts of their own lives in Auggie, his parents or his sister. Others still will be upset that the film evoked any kind of emotional reaction and claim that they were manipulated and that the film didn’t earn their tears. Any reaction is valid, but the point is that “Wonder” is the sort of film that will make you feel something.
Many of us are outsiders, but we’re given the option of following trends and hiding in plain sight. Auggie’s best option for hiding is a toy astronaut helmet that only draws more attention to himself.
School, regardless of what grade level, is often a place without a safety net. At some point you learn what teachers provide amnesty and those who prefer to shelter a different demographic, but there is always that long stretch of hallway that you’ll have to walk alone.
For Auggie those hallways feel twice as long and occur twice as often and no matter how much the adult world tries to protect him, there will always be a bully with a fascist agenda.
But the film isn’t just about Auggie and his struggles. It also spotlights his sister, Oliva (Izabela Vidovic), and her struggle to find self-worth and importance in a world that always revolves around her brother. She is the absolutely best of people, but she’s been forced to deal with her teenage insecurities pretty much on her own.
Then there are Auggie’s parents, Isabel (Julia Roberts) and Nate (Owen Wilson), who have to set aside aspects of their lives and dreams to take care of their son.
On the surface there is very little about “Wonder” that mirrors any aspect of my life, but fear of not being accepted and the role of an older sibling having to work their way through various issues on their own is something I can connect with.
Yes, there’s a very good chance that “Wonder” will make you cry. I felt like the actors and filmmakers earned those tears, but that’s something you’ll need to decide for yourself.
But I think we can agree that choosing to be kind is a policy that we can all live with.