Wonder Boys

One cannot help but notice odd similarities between fiction and real life when watching Wonder Boys, the new film based on Michael Chabon's novel. This was the last film for Robert Downey Jr. (Two Girls and a Guy, In Dreams) before his return to jail for violating his parole. In the movie, he plays an editor fond of pot and other illegal substances. Also in the film, Michael Douglas' (The Game, A Perfect Murder) character Grady Tripp, is tempted by his attractive young student Hannah (Katie Holmes, GO!, Teaching Mrs. Tingle). Douglas recently was engaged to Catherine Zeta-Jones. Otherwise, the other item to notice is that Wonder Boys is Curtis Hanson's follow-up to LA Confidential, the critically lauded but commercially ambivalent film.

Tripp is undergoing somewhat of a mid-life crisis. His wife just left him, and he is trying to finish his second book. His first book garnered much acclaim for him seven years ago, but now he worries that he may have lost whatever inspiration he once had. Currently, the novel he's writing has no ending, it just seems to go on and on. It is currently the size of a large tome, with no end in sight. The arrival of his editor, Terry Crabtree (Downey) does nothing to help his spirits. Neither does the revelation by his mistress Sara Gaskell (Frances McDormand, Fargo, Madeline) is pregnant with his child. Gaskell is also the chancellor of the university where Tripp teaches. James Leer (Tobey Maguire, The Cider House Rules, Ride with the Devil) is one of Tripp's students, a sullen, morbid student who is a talented writer. At a party at the Gaskell's house, Leer ends up shooting the dog of Sara's husband, and Tripp and Leer must somehow dispose of the corpse without anyone taking notice later. Their efforts lead to a comedy of errors, which drives the rest of the movie.

Although Steve Kloves' (The Fabulous Baker Boys, Flesh and Bone) is highly amusing, nothing else much happens in Wonder Boys. However, not much was required to happen. The humor ranges from extremely funny to kind of boring. Tripp is trying to deal with a problem, and before he can solve it, another one arises. Douglas does a great job playing a man who is potentially past his peak, trying to cope with a multitude of issues, all important to him. Douglas' performance is the heart of the movie. Maguire is also good in his deadpan performance. It is definitely his creepiest role ever, and combined with his other recent roles, demonstrate that he can show considerable depth. . Holmes does what she can with her role, but it is too brief for any substance. Tripp and Leer's efforts over the next couple of days in a way represent their own inner searches. Leer is trying to find who he is, while Tripp is trying to find out where he lost himself. Although teen idols Maguire and Holmes are in Wonder Boys, older audiences will probably appreciate the movie the most.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 52 minutes, Rated R for language and drug content.

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