Julianne Moore does double-time in ‘Wonderstruck’
Article taken from New York Post.
His last film was the wholly adult, sweeping lesbian romance “Carol,” but Todd Haynes’ new film “Wonderstruck,” out Friday, seems squarely aimed at thoughtful kids.
Hard to say what percentage of Haynes’ adult audience will dig this one. I found it lovely to look at and emotionally underwhelming.
Still, this is the second film this year to feature Julianne Moore (a frequent Haynes collaborator) in two separate roles (the other is “Suburbicon”), which almost makes up for its shortcomings.
“Wonderstruck,” is based on the novel by Brian Selznick, whose “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” became the Scorsese film “Hugo.” It’s a bifurcated tale of two tweens, a Michigan boy, Ben (Oakes Fegley), and a New Jersey girl, Rose (Millicent Simmonds), divided by 50 years. Both are deaf (Simmonds actually is), and both escape to New York City looking for answers to existential questions.
The 1977-set Ben is trying to cope with the death of his loving but distracted mother (Michelle Williams) and determined to find his dad; Rose, back in 1927, is missing her absentee mom (Moore), a famous actress who’s starring on Broadway. Rose is yearning to escape her claustrophobic home life, where she’s endlessly, silently reprimanded by her father and various others.
The two kids embark on parallel journeys into the heart of the city, both ending up at, and captivated by, the American Museum of Natural History.
Deafness is not a subject we see often in film, and Haynes innovates with sound design, at times dropping out all noise to mimic the children’s sensory experience; he shoots the young Rose’s story as a black-and-white silent film with a romantic score by Carter Burwell.
Ben, meanwhile, steps out of the Port Authority Bus Terminal and into a very groovy ’70s Times Square, all churning disco bass lines, natural hair and polyester tank tops (and crime, too: He immediately gets his wallet snatched).
The threads of the two stories knit together toward the end as Moore makes a second appearance as the adult Rose, who works at the marvelous Panorama of the City of New York — a scale model of the entire city — at the Queens Museum.
If the movie inspires more kids to go check that out — or the Natural History museum, for that matter — Haynes has done a good thing, although this wide-eyed celebration of New York did remind me, at times, of that old New Yorker cover map illustrating how there’s nothing worth seeing beyond Manhattan’s borders.
Occasionally, it also feels a little obvious — as when young Rose leaves a theater that’s showing one of her mother’s silent movies and spots the movie’s ad being carted away, replaced by a banner trumpeting the brand-new arrival of talkies.
Haynes is more deft when slipping in allusions to his own oeuvre — Ben’s mother’s love for David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” nods at the glam era in Haynes’ “Velvet Goldmine,” while the figurine animation accompanying the adult Rose’s storytelling feels like a nod to the director’s early, celebrated short “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter story.”
Haynes folds in so many eras and visual styles, it’s hard not to be dazzled — and why should you resist? — even if, as usual, he keeps your emotions at arm’s length.