I went to see this movie this morning on the basis of a very positive review in the local paper. (I'm 66, so without such a review I would have assumed it was best left to children and their parents.) It is a well-made movie. Jacob Tremblay, who plays the cruelly-disfigured boy, is indeed wonderful, and Julia Roberts, who has filmed such a wide variety of roles so well, is not far behind him. Everyone in the movie does a fine job. Owen Wilson's portrayal of the father reminded me of the child dad in the comic strip *Sally Forth*. If that's the modern dad, I can only say we've come a long ways since I was a child. I can't look at this movie as a fifth-grader would; it's been too long for me to remember what it felt like to be 10 years old, and I suspect today's 10 year olds look at things very differently than I and my friends did 55 years ago. If you were ever made fun of at that age because of something that made you different, I suspect that this movie will awaken some of the pain you felt back then, however, no matter how long ago it has been. Most of the children are very cruel, at least until the not very believable end. Children do not have the defense mechanisms that adults learn to shield themselves from others' cruelty, so it really hurts. Part of learning to deflect such cruelty is to hide its effect on us, as Auggie tries to do. I suspect that just buries it somewhere in our subconscious memories so that it can pop out at odd moments for the rest of our lives. A sequel showing Auggie as an adult who has undergone yet more facial surgery and now has a "normal" face but still the internal, hidden scars could make for an interesting follow up. This story takes place in the world of the very privileged, the wealthy in New York City who can afford to send their children to expensive prep schools. That adds a dimension to the meanness. These children must all have well-educated parents and come from homes that afford them the best that material life has to offer. (As we see in the case of Miranda, material comfort does not guarantee happiness.) That they are still so mean to Auggie speaks volumes about what a college education does not necessarily provide. We see that especially when we have the misfortune to meet Julian's parents. As cruel as he is to Auggie, we can dismiss it as the actions of a child. When we see that his parents are equally hateful, we cannot dismiss it at all, and can only wonder that Julian is anything less than a monster. (His "I"m sorry" in his last scene does not ring at all true.) It was clever casting to make his father so handsome. All that more striking to see that someone so ugly inside can be hiding behind such an attractive exterior. This left me wondering how much worse life would have been for a child like Auggie who attended a public school in a less-than- prosperous neighborhood. That would have made for a very different movie, I suspect, and one that would have been far more painful to watch. There are all sorts of nits one could pick with the script. The children sometimes speak very maturely for 10 year olds. Miranda's "backstory" tries to redeem her, but does not really explain why she goes from being Via's best friend to completely ignoring her. The sudden turn-around of the rest of the student body is also left unexplained. Certainly this is a good movie to take children, who will not worry about such issues, to see. It teaches important lessons. Will they be learned by every child who sees it? That will all depend on the world in which he/she lives after leaving the theater. No movie can make up for prejudice inculcated at home and on the playground.
Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman. Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to discover their compassion and acceptance, Auggie's extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can't blend in when you were born to stand out.