Wonder is the story of Auggie (Jacob Tremblay), a young boy with facial deformities, starting 5th grade after being home-schooled all his life by his mother (Julia Roberts). The dramatic tension and main meat of the drama is Auggie’s struggle to find friends and avoid bullies, with the usual cast of mean kids, open-minded kids and insensitive kids to contend with.
The film has a neat trick, where for the first half of the movie it switches perspective every half-hour between the five main child actors . One is acutely aware, however, that all roads lead back to Auggie.
Whilst it’s not quite as dramatic as the perspective shifts in Dunkirk it does provide the story with a little more depth as it allows the characters more breathing room to develop their motivations.
Some of the sideplots are a little underdeveloped with Auggie’s Sisters’ Ex-Bestfriend, Miranda, getting her own storyline, which seemed a bit much. It is unclear to me why the director, Stephen Chbosky, felt the need to pad out a script, whilst he had Owen Wilson waiting in the wings with apparently very little to do.
There are several moments in the film where you wonder where the big guy is. His role is to be the laid back ying to Emma Roberts’ stressful, earnest, yang, but often he isn’t onscreen enough to make a difference. On at least two occasions he is “At Work” when drama is going down. This seems like an excuse for Wilson not being “On Set” and it’s a shame because he brings a lot of Hippie-Turned-Lawyer charm to his scenes with Auggie.
There was, however, an element of too many cooks spoiling the broth: with five main child actors, the parents – Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, and side characters all needing character motivations and good lines. An example would be Auggie’s English teacher: ‘I used to be a Wall Street trader but then I quit to pursue my dream of teaching’. Sure you did mate.
It’s not that rich kids always have it easy, but it certainly makes the film’s drama low-stakes in the grand scheme of things.
The film’s portrayal of school is also a little bit Jacqueline Wilson: children physically recoil at the sight of Auggie, they exclaim ‘What’s the deal with your face’ and he is relentlessly bullied by some. Whilst, it is not unbelievable that this might happen (I’m sure it has done), the obviousness of the children’s reaction was a big warning sign that the film wasn’t going to take us anywhere interesting.
The challenge’s Auggie faces are undeniably difficult but there is never a moment where you don’t believe he is going to meet them. Especially with his upper-middle class family, supportive parents and he literally goes to a private school in New York City. It’s not that rich kids always have it easy, but it certainly makes the film’s drama low-stakes in the grand scheme of things.
I did enjoy it, through, it doesn’t feel overly long but I’d wait till it comes out on Netflix.