Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand,
Robert Downey Jr., Katie Holmes, Rip
Torm, Richard Thomas
out of 5
thought Michael Douglas could look so
adorable? As Grady Tripp, Douglas is a
pot-smoking Garrison Keillor teddy bear
of a man. WONDER BOYS takes place around
a weekend writers' conference at an unnamed
Pittsburgh college (Michael Chabon, author
of the source novel, is from Pittsburgh)
where Grady is a faculty member in the
English Department. His fans, his colleagues,
and his editor are clamoring for a follow-up
to his brilliant, influential, but years-old
novel, The Arsonist's Daughter.
Trouble is, Grady has a writing problem
— he can't stop. His new book is a 2,000-page
monster-in-a-box, with no end in sight.
His wife has ceased to sympathize with
him. In fact, as WONDER BOYS opens, she's
left him. Grady grieves about her departure
rather abstractly — he hates being a bad
buy — but not too deeply, as he's been
conducting a long-term affair with Sara,
the university chancellor (McDormand).
Sara is married to Grady's boss, an officious
prig with a DiMaggio-Monroe fixation,
who heads of the English Dept. (Thomas,
aka John-Boy). Actually, he's a regular
enough guy, but as he finds Grady's lack
of publishing productivity and perpetual
stonedness objectionable, he is, perforce,
of stacking of the deck is probably what's
wrong with WONDER BOYS. Not that it's
a bad movie. I quite liked it. I just
get a mite tetchy when I know I'm being
is an interesting and wacky day in the
life of a man who needs to find himself.
Not that he's way lost — he has an intelligent
and strong-minded lover; a significant
and successful work to his credit; a following;
a job; and a big-ass Victorian house.
In fact, it's a little too interesting,
weighted as it is with 1) James Leer,
a talented young student writer (Maguire)
who's a pathological liar; 2) a talented
young student editor-wannabe (Holmes)
who's nubile and who boards at Grady's
house; 3) a wacky, sexually omnivorous
editor (Downey); 4) the cross-dresser
he picked up on the plane; 5) an enraged
bar patron who believes Grady has stolen
his car; 6) an ultra-confident, prolific
novelist (Torn); 7) Marilyn Monroe's jacket;
and 8) a dead dog. It's as if Curtis Hanson,
who has spent a bit of idle time since
his critical smash, went to extremes to
find and direct Not-L.A. CONFIDENTIAL.
WONDER BOYS definitely fills the bill.
is not the smash that Hanson's previous
film was. His comedy is a bit labored
compared to his deft touch with red meat
like L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Still, it can
be fun, especially if your demographic
is arty/literary, morally malaised recreational
a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
worth a full-price ticket.
worth a matinee ticket.
for video rental.
out the video from the library, if you
I would never encourage anyone to destroy