starring Oakes Fegley, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Millicent Simmonds
screenplay by Brian Selznick, based on his book
directed by Todd Haynes
by Walter Chaw I like the way Todd Haynes's Wonderstruck moves. It glides from one vignette to the next, one setting to another, one era to a previous one. It shifts from a 1977-set Times Square scored by that Deodato disco remix of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (the one Hal Ashby used for Chauncey's first stroll in Being There) to a silent movie where a deaf/mute girl (Millicent Simonds) looks for her mother (Julianne Moore), a silent film star who's apparently left her behind for the bright lights, big city. Based on Brian Selznick's children's novel, just like Martin Scorsese's Hugo, Wonderstruck suffers from the same problem as Scorsese's film: mainly, that it's based on a kid's book that's mostly pictures and therefore plotted around a central twist neither surprising nor instructive. It is simultaneously too much for what it is, and not enough. I still like the way Wonderstruck moves, though, as Haynes stakes his claim again as the king of winsome nostalgia, telling the story of poor little Ben (Oakes Fegley), who's just lost his mother, Elaine (Michelle Williams), but not before (in flashback) she's refused to tell Ben who his father is. She does, however, make him interested in David Bowie before she goes, so it could be worse.
Wonderstruck is a beautifully-mounted, exquisitely-framed pop-cultural Rorschach blot hung loose on a standard kid's-book skeleton that wraps everything up as neatly as life never does. Since there are parallel storylines about parallel searches, you know they'll intersect eventually. Depending on how old you are and how many stories you've consumed, you'll either figure out the whole thing in the first ten minutes or be delighted in the last ten. Whatever the case, the rewatch value of Wonderstruck, if there is any, is predicated entirely on the amount to which its loveliness, its smooth lyrical grace, can hold your imagination and transport you to your own secret gardens. The picture doesn't have any of its own, see. For what it's worth, Wonderstruck is the new Todd Haynes film. Your mileage may vary. Anyway, I like the way it moves.