Wonder, rated PG
Wonder is a heart-warming, family friendly film with good messages, based on the best-selling novel that features a strong cast. Stephen Chbosky, who directed the film version of his own novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, directs this version of R.J. Palacio’s 2012 young-adult best-selling novel, which may remind some of the 1985 Oscar winning film Mask, about a teenager with craniofacial deformities. Chbosky writes the screenplay along with Steven Conrad and Jack Thorne. The story is told from the perspective of multiple characters.
The film is about one year in the life of ten-year old Auggie Pullman, played by Jacob Tremblay, who was wonderful in the 2015 film Room. A congenital disorder (mandibulofacial dystosis, which is known as Treacher Collins Syndrome (TCS),has badly deformed Auggie’s face. (Note: it actually took 90 minutes each day during filming to apply the facial prosthetics he wore for the role.) The disfiguration was so severe, that even after 27 surgeries, Auggie’s face is still badly deformed to the point that when he ventures out of his home he wears a large astronaut helmet on his head to hide his face from others.
Auggie lives in New York with his overprotective parents, father Nate, played by Oscar nominee Owen Wilson (The Royal Tenenbaums), and mother Isabel, played by Oscar winner Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich), along with sister Via, short for Olivia (Izabela Vidovic), who is neglected by her parents as they focus all of their attention on Auggie. Auggie has been home-schooled by his mother, but as he is to enter the fifth grade, they decide to send him to Beecher Prep School, where Mr. Tushman (played by three-time Golden Globe nominee Mandy Patinkin) is the kind principal.
The film follows Auggie, who displays a good sense of humor, during his first year at Beech, where we see him bullied and teased, make friends, etc. But the film is also about Via and how she deals with being neglected by her parents.
The film is told from the perspectives of Auggie, Via, Via’s best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), and Auggie’s classmates Julia (Bryce Gheisar) and Jack (Noah Jupe). Three-time Golden Globe nominee Sonia Braga portrays Grans, Via’s and Wonder’s grandmother, in a small role.
The film is well-acted, and Wilson and Roberts have good chemistry on-screen. I really enjoyed Mandy Patinkin’s portrayal of the wise and kind principal, Mr. Tushman. The top performance though has to be by 11-year-old Jacob Tremblay, who follows his excellent performance in Room with another strong performance asAuggie.
Themes include acceptance, bullying, friendship and family. My wife loved the father’s strength that was portrayed. Mom wants to protect Auggie and keep him in her ‘nest’, while Dad wisely boots the little ‘eaglet’ out of the nest to teach him to fly. The film is truly family friendly, with no objectionable content, which is really refreshing these days. And oh yes, you might want to bring a Kleenex with you to the theatre for this heart-warming film.