“Wonder” is a movie which should appeal to everyone – young and old – movie lovers and sometimes movie goers – and it is perfect for the holidays because it tells a universal tale of hope and good will. Only a curmudgeon would take issue with this film.
August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) stars as a 10-year-old science genius and Star Wars fanatic who has endured dozens of operations that still can’t disguise the facial abnormalities that call for unavoidable stares from anyone who sees him. You’ve been there; your mother tells you not to stare at the odd-looking or strange-acting person who shares an elevator with you. But you can’t help yourself.
That’s how it is when people see Auggie. His face is pocked and puffed up in places where it should not be – and he has these little tags where his ears belong. To his mother Isabel’s credit (played by Julia Roberts), he has been home-schooled from the beginning and is probably more intellectually ready for fifth grade than most seventh graders. For the first time in his life, Auggie is going to attend public school – granted it is a private academy – but what other school could adequately serve a budding science guru?
Auggie spends a lot of time hiding under his astronaut helmet and his fantasies tend to run to antics in a spacesuit. We love him for that. But when he finally takes off the helmet, the school is not quite ready for Auggie – even though the principal has selected a trio of classmates whose job it is to make Auggie feel normal in a not so normal environment.
The loneliness, isolation, and disassociation are things most school kids have endured, but for Auggie it is accelerated. Auggie’s teen sister Via “Olivia”(Izabela Vidovic), has spent her own, supposedly “normal” life living in the shadow of a brother who pulls her parents’ focus so completely that Via feels invisible. To her credit and incredible sense of maturity, she still adores her little brother and is the better grown up for it. It takes a special courage for Auggie’s classmates to decide to join Auggie at the cafeteria table. And part of their doing so is attributed to their own awakening to a sense of self and empowerment not dependent on the flock.
Auggie’s dad, Nate (Owen Wilson) is a steady and calming voice of reason for his son and his family. His gentle sense of humor and his insistence that he and his son are look-alike handsome dudes is both heartwarming and a stroke of brilliance. What would any of us have given to discover in middle school that it was a blessing to stand out from the crowd? Could we have ever imagined that?
This is clearly a three handkerchief movie. But that is not a failing. I think it is so powerful because it strikes so close to home. We have all been there and can identify with almost every character in the movie. But what sets this film apart from other films which touch the heart is the casting. This is perhaps the best cast movie of the season. It is truly a marvel and we viewers are so lucky to have seen it. It clearly warrants more than one viewing.