Thursday, November 19, 2009

#425: Wonder Boys (2000)

Director: Curtis Hanson
Cast: Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., Katie Holmes & Frances McDormand

Prof. Grady Tripp has been struggling to complete his second publication, which colleague Terry Crabtree has been anticipating to read for the past seven years. Upon Terry's arrival with his tuba-playing transvestite girlfriend, Prof. Tripp evades Terry's questions on the book. Tripp is also going through a divorce while sleeping with the married chancellor, who has suspicions about student Hannah Green, who is renting a room from Prof. Tripp. While Tripp may be struggling for inspiration for his book, student James Leer certainly isn't. A troubled youth, Leer has just finished writing his first novel, despite his troubles at home.

I'm surprised this film hasn't become better known. It's gotten many great reviews, though not that many seats taken in the audience.

The greatest thing about this movie is its mellow attitude towards some crazy events. With sex, drugs and transvestites (sorry, not that much rock-n-roll in this flick), you would expect some wacky, over-the-top characters yelling and screaming. Instead, the events are portrayed in a way that seems much more plausible on the university campus. Everyone takes these events in stride, focusing on what's most important at the end. In this case, that end is the publication of a great book.

Great performances are made by all, particularly Robert Downey Jr. His character could so easily have been absolutely over-the-top, but his nonchalance makes the character superb.

Oh, and the music is pretty fantastic as well. I hadn't known beforehand, it actually won an Oscar for Best Song with Bob Dylan's 'Things Have Changed'.

I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who wants a fun but relaxing time.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • All key scenes feature a bridge in the background, either one of the bridges of Pittsburgh, or on a painting.
  • The film was originally released in February of 2000 to almost universal praise (especially for the performance of Michael Douglas) but with very little fanfare. Paramount, the film's distributor, decided to re-release the film that November with a different marketing campaign that highlighted its strong supporting cast, and hopes that it would garner some Oscar nominations, despite Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Friedman's acknowledgment that no studio had ever successfully re-released a picture that initially flopped.
  • Bearing in mind the film's interest in Marilyn Monroe, the character of Miss Antonia Sloviak - a tuba-playing transvestite - may be a nod to Monroe's film Some Like It Hot (1959), in which two men disguise themselves as women and pose as members of an all-female band. (One of the men was played by Tony Curtis, which may have been the inspiration for Antonia's real name Tony.)

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