NYFF Film Review: ‘Wonderstruck’ Encompasses Magic and Love from Todd Haynes

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Wonderstruck

It’s a pleasant surprise to sit down for a movie, not expecting what it has to offer and completely being mesmerized by what it’s delivering.  Todd Haynes has tapped into a new wave of storytelling with his adaptation of Brian Selznick‘s novel “Wonderstruck.”  Exposing a remarkable cast of impeccable talents, Haynes’ sensibilities as a director crafts a beautiful expose on silence and sound.  Assembling a dynamite crafts team, “Wonderstruck” is an admirable achievement in an already impressive fall season.

Wonderstruck,” tells the story of a young boy Ben (played by Oakes Fegley) and a young girl Rose (played by newcomer Millicent Simmonds), told fifty years apart simultaneously as they both seek the same mysterious connection.

Where “Wonderstruck” really comes alive is in its musical cues set by the genius Carter Burwell and its stunning imagery by Edward Lachmann.  Allowing the dialogue and sound to take a backseat, Burwell vigorous composition stands to possibly be his finest work yet.  Lachmann’s camera work is as good as we’ve come to expect from the veteran cameraman.

WonderstruckHaynes has made a staple out of getting the best work from Oscar-winner Julianne Moore.  Her lively and energetic portrayal borders the complexity and nuance as seen by Berenice Bejo in “The Artist” and Vanessa Redgrave in “Atonement,” both packing an emotional punch.  If there’s a standout, the great find of the year is Millicent Simmonds as the young and fragile Rose.  Haynes casts her appropriately, as the talk around diversity and inclusion remain one of Hollywood’s greatest faults.  Simmonds echoes the sentiment and sadness of a young girl with no words, effectively illustrating the power of the movies.

The cast of young boys, the aforementioned Fegley and Jaden Michael aren’t as efficient as one would hope.  The chemistry between the two isn’t as palpable as the story suggests while they’re line delivery often borders on stiff and underdeveloped.  Time will be kind to them as actors as they grow into themselves and learn their strengths.

Brian Selznick, who adapts his own book, nabs most of the ideas and feelings he sets out to do.  While there are hiccups within its narrative, you can’t help to be drawn back in with a charming and graceful cinematic beat.

After premiering at the Cannes Film Festival before moving on to Telluride, “Wonderstruck” seemed to have its naysayers.  Call it low expectations but the film landed in a sweet, delicate spot, becoming one of the year and New York Film Festival’s most pleasant surprises.  You can easily be drawn into its magic, as it exquisitely draws up your cinematic mind with class and refinement.  Sublime and subtle, “Wonderstruck” is a dazzling movement.

Wonderstruck” is distributed by Amazon Studios and will hit theaters on Oct. 20.

GRADE: (★½)

Check out the newest Oscar Predictions and see where “WONDERSTRUCK” ranks!

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MOTION PICTURE | DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |