It was only a matter of time before I mentioned this one – Wonder Boys is one of my all-time favorite films, and one of the few films I’ve ever appreciated equally to its book predecessor. Sure, there’s a lot more going on in Michael Chabon’s novel, but director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, 8 Mile) keeps in all the best parts – the quirkiness of the characters, the off-kilter literary references, and the ridiculous plot that comically stumbles along unsure of where it’s going but going anyway. I enjoy the rare movies that focus on writers – not the Secret Window‘s, Ask the Dust‘s, and Alex and Emma‘s, but the ones that pull back the curtains of mystery to reveal all the humor that is connected to such angst-ridden creativity. Wonder Boys does this deftly, almost poignantly, and as I write those completely unnecessary adverbs, I can see Professor Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) and Terry Crabtree (Robert Downey Jr.) roll their eyes. This is one of Douglas’s most unappreciated characters; he plays the “blocked” writing professor with a curmudgeonly grace, and he is flanked by a beautiful mess of supporting characters, including Downey Jr.’s bi-sexual editor, Tobey Maguire’s compulsive liar/young genius, Frances McDormand’s wearied, not-getting-any-younger “girlfriend,” and the hilarious Alan Tudyk’s stoner custodian. Between these weirdos, Poe the blind dog, Vernon the hood-jumper, Q the best-selling prick, and Katie Holmes in what may have been her last sweet role before she went over to the dark side, I never get tired of this film or its treasure trove of high-brow gems. I could go on and on, but here are five more reasons to watch this film:
#2 – James Lear’s (Tobey Maguire) alphabetical articulation of the famous Hollywood suicides. Great stuff for parties.
#3 – The Academy-Award winning song, “Things Have Changed,” by Bob Dylan, not to mention the rest of a pitch-perfect soundtrack.
#4 – Vernon and his pregnant “cupcake.”
#5 – A movie that, in its own strange way, perfectly captures the irresistible drudgery of the writing craft. “I don’t believe in writer’s block.” … “No kidding.”
p.s. – What are your favorite films about writers?