Thursday, October 16, 2008

Currently Watching: Wonder Boys (2000)

Curtis Hanson may only have one truly great film under his belt (LA Confidential), but he's nevertheless an extremely versatile filmmaker who has dipped his hand into multiple genres and styles.
"Wonder Boys" is a surprisingly charming film, with deft humor and strong photography to support its performa
es, marvelously edited by the great Dede Allen.  Michael Douglas, who's seemed to disappear, does fabulous work and is barely recognizable.  The ensemble is fueled by a younger Tobey Maguire, whose performance reminded me of his great work in Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm," and Robert Downey Jr. at the very beginning of his comeback, doing his typical zany shtick but in a more minimal, more reserved way that precludes his recent supers
tar status.

The writing is great; strong characters and a small drama, but it occasionally feels like it relies a bit too heavy on its voiceover to elaborate exposition, making it a bit more literary than cinematic.  Still, the colors and the compositions are extremely vivid, with shots of New England snow and intellectual homes lit in alternating cold blues and warm browns.

At best, it's a warm, small film that very few people have heard of.  It keeps itself focused and contained, much to its benefit.  I enjoyed it immensely for its performances and the subtle directorial touches.

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