Wonder Director: Stephen Chbosky Screenwriter: Stephen Chbosky Cast: Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay, Izabela Vidovic, Mandy Patinkin, Daveed Diggs, Noah Jupe, Danielle Rose Russell Distributor: Lionsgate Rated PG | 113 Release Date: November 17, 2017
Based on the children’s novel of the same name, Wonder inspires with its virtuous themes that tell its audience to do the right thing. On the surface, Stephen Chbosky‘s film looks like one of those schmaltzy films so formulaic that you probably already know that it is going to hit all the right emotional notes at all the right times.
But sometimes predictability is not so bad, and underneath that surface, there is something honest and heartfelt about it. There is a refreshing message that reminds us when given the choice to be right or be kind, we should be kind. Check out my full review of Wonder below.
Wonder centers, quite literally, on a boy named Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a young fifth grader who was born with a deformity, requiring multiple facial surgeries to help restore his sight and hearing but leave him permanently scarred in the facial area. But in order for him to live a normal life, his mother, Isabel Pullman (Julia Roberts) believes that it is time for him to go to public school. His father, Nate Pullman (Owen Wilson), resists the idea of letting him go out of fear that he will be bullied because of his looks. But he ultimately agrees that it is the right time for Auggie to go to public school.
Auggie is fully aware of his condition and the undeserved notoriety that comes with it. So rather than be a victim of circumstance, he uses his stunning wits and honest humor to overcome the emotional pain. It’s no wonder (pun fully intended) that Auggie is wise beyond his years. It’s almost as if he could already take care of himself. But that really wouldn’t be much of a film. So while he is very mature for his age, he is still very vulnerable to bullying. Something he isn’t accustomed to since he had been homeschooled.
But now that he is out there, walking in plain sight, without his astronaut helmet to hide in, he is exposed to the fears, looks, and prejudices that come with his looks. And yet, the film never makes Auggie the victim. Instead, it shows his courage to walk about in public despite his deformities, and the grace he has to never, ever, turn to violence. What this film does, from beginning to end, is that it reminds us that we should always choose kindness, no matter our flaws and disagreements.
That kind of reminder is hard to come by, which makes a film like Wonder that much more wonderful. It’s that message to choose kindness over being right is one that constantly rings throughout the film, one that will resonate with audiences. So while Auggie may look the way he does in the film, he always remembers that he has his friends, family, and teachers to guide him and not once let him be a victim of his condition.
And while it may seem like everything revolves around Auggie, those orbiting him are being affected by him in different ways. They each have a different point of view whenever they are interacting with Auggie. But these differing POVs don’t muddle the story, but rather humanizes everyone who interacts with him. We see his sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) having to live with the fact that she will have to be overlooked from time to time so that her parents can look and care for her brother. Though it may seem a bit selfish, Via cares for her brother deeply, often dispensing words of wisdom that “you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.” And those POVs aren’t just limited to his family but friends as well. We see his best friend Jack Will (Noah Jupe) learn what it means to be a true friend when he is tasked with being a tour guide. But it is that first moment he sees him that he learns there is so much more to Auggie than his looks. So he becomes his friend and staunch defender, though there are times where his immaturity can get the best of him.
And the film doesn’t make its antagonists out to be the bad guy from the get-go. Instead, it humanizes them with those POVs, showing that while they are flawed, it is Auggie who helps bring out the best in them. A story that works well with a character like Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), Via’s best friend, who is made out to look like she shunned her, but is fully realized when it is revealed that she is going through some struggles of her own.
Deep down, Wonder is exactly the kind of movie we need right now. Sure it may be a little cheesy, a bit schmaltzy, but at least it’s honest and heartfelt, full of wonderfully flawed characters who realize that we can become better versions of themselves if they choose kindness.