Directed By: Stephen Chbosky
Stephen Chbosky’s “Wonder” delivers a clear, positive message with the best of the intentions. I wish I could say there’s nothing wrong with it, but the truth is that this tearful family drama grows too condescending after a promising start, assuming the shape of an optimistic crowd-pleaser instead of a realistic portrait of life.
The trio of writers - Chbosky, Jack Thorne, and Steve Conrad, adapted the 2012 novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio, which tells us about Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a smart young boy who loves Star Wars and was born with TCS, a genetic disorder characterized by facial deformities that cost him 27 surgeries. This traumatized kid, who uses a helmet to hide his face from the world, complains about how burdensome has been his life: “an ordinary kid doesn’t get stared wherever he goes or doesn’t scare the other kids out of the playground”.
Auggie just started to go school for the very first time and went directly to the fifth-grade after having been homeschooled by his caring mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts). A very complicated moment because, without the protection of his parents, he faces the cruel reality of bullying and the constant scorn of some of his schoolmates, especially Julian (Bryce Gheisar), a swagger who doesn’t miss a chance to provoke him and hurt his feelings. The nicest boy in school is Jack Will (Noah Jupe), who rapidly finds valuable qualities in Auggie's personality to notice his malformation. However, their apparently solid friendship takes a thorny course when the protagonist catches Jack talking behind his back.
The focus then turns to Auggie’s sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), a responsible student who claims more than ever the attention of her parents. Since she lost her grandmother, the only one who could truly understand her, and her best friend, Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), who, all of a sudden, stopped talking to her after returning from a summer camp, life has become arduous.
An array of dissociations, reconciliations, and conquests follow, always depicted with a mix of grace and contrivance.
“Wonder” simply didn’t work for me. Besides the setbacks described above, the two funniest characters, Auggie’s father, Nate (Owen Wilson), and the school’s principal, Mr. Tushman (Mandy Patinkin), had very little time to shine. Chbosky, who also didn’t convince in his previous feature “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, plays this ‘music’ so in tune that he forgot to orchestrate some twists to cause surprise. This is a melting and flimsy tale.