Friday, June 24, 2016

Short Take: Wonder Boys

In Wonder Boys (2000), Michael Douglas stars as a middle-aged creative writing professor at a Pittsburgh-area university. He is beset by crises from all directions. There are the romantic troubles: His wife has just left him, he's on the cusp of an affair with the pretty coed (Katie Holmes) who rents his house's spare room, and his department chair's wife (Frances McDormand) is pregnant with his child. There are the professional problems: in addition to the looming contretemps with the boss he's cuckolding, he's on the hot seat with his editor (Robert Downey, Jr.) over his inability to complete his current novel. To top it all off, his most talented student (Tobey Maguire) appears on the verge of a breakdown. Everything comes to a head during a weekend literary festival at the school. This rich character comedy is based on Michael Chabon's 1995 novel, and it was beautifully adapted by screenwriter Steve Kloves and director Curtis Hanson. Few authors will ever see their books so well-realized on screen. The film captures the atmosphere of contemporary academic life better than any other, and it leaves the viewer rooting for every single one of its characters, who all get a happy ending. The cast, from Douglas and Maguire on down, is terrific. The graceful editing is by Dede Allen.

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