A Shining Gem in the Cinematic "Cabinet of Wonders"
Wonderstruck is a shining gem in the cinematic "cabinet of wonders." The film is adapted from the book Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, the same author who wrote Hugo Cabret. Directed by Todd Haynes and written by Brian Selznick, the film envelopes you in its beautifully detailed vision of old New York. The movie stars Oakes Fegley, Julianne Moore and Michele Williams. I love this film because it combines the artistic style of old black and white silent films with the more modern color palette of today's films.
Wonderstruck tells two similar stories that have a connection. One story concerns a twelve-year-old boy, Ben, in the 1970s, who, after losing his Mom, decides to run away and look for his father in the big city. Recently losing his hearing from a lightning strike, he must deal with his disability without knowing sign language. Luckily, when he arrives in NYC he makes a friend, Jamie, who takes him to the American Museum of Natural History. The other story follows a young girl, Rose, in the late 1920s. It is portrayed as a silent black and white film, as befits the time period. Rose is born deaf and never learned sign language or how to properly talk, but she is talented at creating artworks with paper. She is depicted as a very shy, quiet type, but loves visiting her brother who works at the Museum of Natural History.
This film reminds me of Hugo and The Night at the Museum because of the attention to historical detail and the wonder inherent in the natural world. I also enjoyed how it keeps changing from a silent, black and white film to a talky, color film. It gives you the best of both worlds - old style filmmaking and more modern. Each time the film shifts time periods, the music changes as well. The film revels in many different textures, such as the gritty reality of NYC in the 1970s, all the old curiosities in the Museum of Natural History and even the paper cityscapes that Rose creates. The crux of the film is the director's fascination with the old "cabinet of wonders" and how it is the precursor to the modern museum. This film itself is a "cabinet of wonders," revealing many treasures in its depths. My favorite scene is when Ben and Jamie explore the secret rooms in the Museum of Natural History.
Before Wonderstruck, I was not familiar with the director, Todd Haynes. Until now he has created mostly sophisticated, art house, independent films. This film can be considered a fascinating, art house, family film. I give Wonderstruck 4 out of 5 stars for its creative way it combines two different artistic styles. I recommend it for ages 12 to 18.
Reviewed by Clayton P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.
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