Coming of Age: Wonder Boys

In Wonder Boys, Michael Douglas stars as a writer who discovers sometimes it takes a long time to finally become the man you’re meant to be.

WONDER BOYS (2000)
Starring: Michael Douglas, Robert Downey Jr., Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes and Frances McDormand
Written by Steven Kloves
Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures Pictures
111 minutes

This is an exciting week for me, Forget the Box readers: I’m finally doing a post on one of my all time favourite films, Wonder Boys. It’s pretty easy to tell by reading my column that for me one of the things I appreciate most about film is a great performance. As writer Grady Tripp, Michael Douglas gives in my opinion the best and most underrated performance of his career. Completely overshadowed by the flashier Almost Famous when it was released it 2000, Wonder Boys has unfortunately stayed under most people’s radar since.

Despite his middle age, pot smoking Grady has yet to become what one would call an emotionally mature adult. He’s spent the past seven years trying to write the follow up to his beloved debut novel and everyone in Grady’s life is slowly losing faith that it’ll ever be finished. Most importantly, though, instead of committing to his soul mate and co-worker Sara, (Frances McDormand), Grady has gone through three marriages to young, beautiful women he has no real connection to.

Being unable to finish his book and not having the courage to be with the woman he loves, Grady is starting to crack under the pressure. With all his roles as a slick and sophisticated man, it’s hilarious to see Douglas looking strung out in a pink bathrobe as he contemplates his life and smokes a joint at 9 in the morning.

What’s so great about Douglas’s performance in this film is that while Grady sits there looking like a complete disaster, you can still see a glint of someone who in his youth managed to coast by on his good looks and charm

Grady finds himself over the course of one weekend forced to confront the big issues in his life after he befriends one of his writing students, the morose and peculiar James Leer (Tobey Maguire). While Grady spends the weekend trying to mentor James/keep him out of trouble, Grady’s friend and editor Terry Crabtree (Robert Downey Jr.) comes to town hoping to take a look at his long overdue book. Sara also drops the bombshell that she’s pregnant with his child.

All the supporting actors in this film are great; seriously even Katie Holmes doesn’t bother me as an eager boarder of  Grady’s who would more than happily become wife number four. But without a doubt the standout supporting role goes to Downey Jr. as the sharp-witted bi-curious Manhattan book editor Terry. Downey Jr. always has a great screen presence, but this role really lets his mischievous side charm you and he and Douglas have a great repartee throughout the film.

With its sharp wit, savvy soundtrack and of course amazing cast, Wonder Boys is smart film about sometimes  how facing your fears is the only way you’re ever going to grow up. Grady’s long overdue trip to maturity is some of the most fun I’ve ever had watching a film, and I guarantee if you give this gem of a film a chance you’ll think so too.

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