Starring Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Mandy Patinkin
The bestselling book about understanding your classmates, bullying and accepting others for what’s on the inside, comes to the big screen with big stars. R.J. Palacio’s book Wonder is a film that will be far more emotional and meaningful to parents than a younger audience. Restless, was what I witnessed at a screening of middle school children, sniffles were what you heard from the rest audience when the story lays it on thick. Wonder avoids the Simon Birch tropes, instead pf focusing on one character dealing with a disability, it examines all the lives and characters effected by it. Adorable Jacob Tremblay from the Oscar winning Room returns once again stealing the show.
“I have had 27 operations,” Auggie (Tremblay) explains through narration. The 11-year-old suffers from mandibulofacial dystosis, or Treacher Collins syndrome results in disfiguration of the face. His mom Isabel (Roberts), abandoned her career to home school Auggie, fearing what the outside world would make of him. Now, Isabel and Nate (Owen) have decided it’s time he interact with the real world, understanding the risk and pain he will endure. The first days don’t go well, Auggie in tears from the ridicule. “Is it always going to matter?,” he cries to his mom, regarding his appearance. She gives him the most beautiful answer and eventually Auggie finds the right kind of people in the 6th grade who can look past his disease. Older sister Via might not have a disorder, but she struggles just the same, parents always bestowing their full attention on Auggie.
Both Roberts and Wilson are supporting characters, allowing the younger actors to shine, yet each get some powerful parental moments.
There are so many valuable lessons in Wonder, it’s hard to hold the film to task for all the “on the nose” moments where it rubs in stereotypical moments we see coming a mile away. Wonder however is that rare film you’re glad exists, despite its flaws. In today’s world, both children and adults need a reminder on humanity, and cinema might be the best place to learn. Wonder checks the boxes on a diverse cast, it offers reformation for bullies and even shows how, despite our leading characters difficulties, he too can be a little selfish. Roberts plays a real mom here nailing stuff that everyone will both appreciate and recognize. Both Roberts and Wilson are supporting characters, allowing the younger actors to shine, yet each get some powerful parental moments.
Tremblay (The Book of Henry) might be hidden behind prosthetic makeup, but his charm and performance isn’t diminished. Chewbacca makes a couples of appearances, as Auggie imagines how he might also stare at the Star Wars character if he was attending school. My gripe about middle school experiences portrayed on film continues here as most movies fantasize parents walking kids to school, cleanliness of the facilities, nurturing teachers and how the classmates are either one thing or another. Every role in Palacio’s story is clearly defined which might have some younger viewers unable to identify with the life of a wealthy, private school student who lives in a safe, affluent neighborhood.
A sermon in kindness and acceptance for a younger audience, a plea for humanity from adults.