Wonder Boys is one of those movies in which more twists and turns disrupt the life of the hero in one weekend than would bother most of us our whole lives. Professor Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) is an aging one-novel wund... more »erkind at a small Pittsburgh college who's laboring on his seven-years-in-the-making, 2000-plus page second opus with no end in sight. The morning of the college's literary lollapalooza, WordFest, Grady's wife leaves him; that evening, his mistress (Frances McDormand) announces she's pregnant (she's also the chancellor of the school, as well as the wife of Grady's boss). Grady's voracious editor (Robert Downey Jr.) is also in town, transvestite date in tow, determined to read the highly anticipated new book; there's also the nubile student (Katie Holmes), who seems more than willing to ease Grady's pain. And then there's James Leer (Tobey Maguire), the mordant and brilliant writing student who's the catalyst for Grady's lost weekend, which involves a soon-to-be-dead blind dog, a stolen car, and the jacket that Marilyn Monroe wore when she wed Joe DiMaggio. Had enough flights of fancy? It's only the beginning, and in the hands of director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) and screenwriter Steve Kloves (The Fabulous Baker Boys), Wonder Boys will have you begging for more. Adroitly adapting Michael Chabon's novel and distilling it to its droll, melancholy essence, Kloves and Hanson have fashioned a briskly unsentimental and darkly funny tale; these characters may be down on their luck, but they sure don't feel sorry for themselves. Douglas, by turns dryly sarcastic and sincerely heartfelt, single-handedly makes up for years of alpha-male posturing as the passive pothead Tripp, and whoever thought of pairing him with the resilient McDormand is brilliant--they convey the complexities and history of their relationship in a single glance or movement. And under Hanson's guidance, the rest of the cast is truly exceptional, with Maguire in a breakthrough performance and Downey at his manic best. The ending of Wonder Boys may feel a little too pat, but after everything these characters have been through, a happy ending seems a just reward. --Mark Englehart« less
Gloria B. (glowbird) from SPOKANE, WA Reviewed on 11/28/2012...
For plot discussion, read other reviews. This is one of my all-time favorite movies. What is there to not rave about? The story is a good one, the actors are phenomenal, the soundtrack is absolutely great--gotta be a Dylan fan. The dialogue is refreshingly real, and hilarious. Michael Douglas, Robert Downey, Jr. are absolutely perfect for these roles, as is Tobey Maguire. I never want to part with mine! My only regret is this is not on Blu-ray.
2 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Lucye C. from DALLAS, GA Reviewed on 6/3/2010...
1 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
A strange and wonderful gem of a motion picture.
David Grant | Lancaster, PA USA | 03/16/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Curtis Hanson's follow-up to his brilliant 'LA Confidential' is equally amazing but in a completely different way. 'Wonder Boys' is a wonderfully skewed comedy, with characters who zig and zag across the screen, weaving in through each others lives, and ultimately finding salvation in each other. Michael Douglas gives his second-great performance of 2000 (the other being in 'Traffic') as Professor Grady Tripp, a chronic pot-smoking, english teacher/author who has had great success in the past with his first novel. Problem is, he can't seem to finish his follow-up and he's been trying for years. He is having an affair with a married chancellor at his school (Frances McDormand in HER sceond great performance of the year, the other being in 'Almost Famous'). His barely-in-the-closet editor (the incredible Robert Downey Jr.) is breathing down his throat and a student of his (Katie Holmes) is trying to get in his pants. Not only that he has the chancellor's dead dog in his trunk, thanks to a mishap with a bewildered, mysterious student of his (Tobey Maguire at his usual excellence) and the car he's driving may or may not be stolen. Over the course of one hellish weekend, Grady Tripp will find out what it means to be in charge of one's own life and the way making a simple choice can change things for the better. The movie rides smoothly from start to finish thanks to great, assured direction by Hanson and smooth screenwriting by Steve Kloves (from the novel by Michael Chabon). It's a truly amazing film, whose character's are so well developed and layered that we never know what to expect of them at any given moment. In fact, anywhere you think this movie might be going at any given time, you will more then likely be wrong. It's surprising and heart-felt, as funny as it is involving, as moving as it is intelligent. And you won't find a better performance then Douglas's in any film this year. It's a true stand-out role for him, a break from his normal obsessive, hard-headed monsters. And he is brilliant. And so is Tobey Maguire, who continues to dazzle with every film. One of the best films of 2000."
A weekend in the life of Professor Grady Tripp
Peggy Vincent | Oakland, CA | 04/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It pretty much all takes over a long weekend of debauchery of one form or another. Professor Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) is a laboring novelist and teacher at a college in Pittsburgh, author Chabon's favorite place to write about (witness: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh). He's working on this novel-in-progress, swearing to his agent (with a transvestite date in tow when he swoops into town for an award banquet) that it's nearly finished when, in reality, it's anything but. He's got a bazillion pages, but the book just isn't going anywhere, certainly not toward any planned or near-at-hand conclusion.
Tripp also has a wife who announces she's leaving him and a mistress (chancellor of the school, as well as the wife of Grady's boss) who tells him she's pregnant. Add to the mix a sexy student who shacks up at Grady's house and the wonderful, brilliant, and horribly confused student played by Tobey Maguire - whose best scene, according to my 19yo son is when, in a marijuana fog, he gets the munchies, lifts the lid of a candy jar, and utters an unforgettable warble of unmitigated joy when he discovers lemon drops.
Then there's a blind dog that ends up dead in the trunk of Grady's car and a gorgeous jacket once owned by Marilyn Monroe, and, and, and...
Michael Douglas Gains Weight And Smokes Pot
Erix | 01/06/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"You'd think that "L.A. Confidential" was a tough act to follow. But director Curtis Hanson takes it in stride with his follow-up, "Wonder Boys". An adaptation of Michael Chabon's novel that is pretty far removed from "Confidential", and yet, manages to be equally compelling and uniquely sedutive on its own.Much of it is probably owed to Michael Douglas. In a refined, carefully controlled performance the actor packs on some 30 pounds and looks totally dishevelled as a burned out college professor with a fondness for marihuana. Douglas' perfect portrayal completely carries the film. It is, in essence, a melancholic comedy. Hanson and the screenwriter use this mood to set-up some very interesting situations and present very unusual characters. The situations are aided by Dante Spinotti's captivating cinematography. And at some instances, things get so bizarre and madcap that you might think you're watching a Coen Brothers movie. Particularly in a very mean-spirited subplot involving the fate of a blind pit bull, and in a wildly amusing scene involving a car accident and Douglas' work in progress. I think of it as psychological slapstick comedy. The thinking man's pie-in-the-face. The story is riddled with stuff like this that borders on the absurd but is presented as matter-of-factly as possible.The whole thing with Douglas' female student played by Katie Holmes, for instance. He rents her a room in his house. She clearly has a deep crush on him. And the irony here is that in a strange way this ends up being a parody of the cinematic sexual escapades that Douglas is known for... In another movie, he might have succumbed to her seductions, but he plays a very different low-key character here. Holmes plays the part perfectly too. After seeing her give such assured performances in off-beat films like this, "The Ice Storm" and the underrated gem "Go", I find it hard to believe that "Dawson's Creek" is her day job. In some ways she's evry bit as daring and accomplished as her more "prestigious" contemporary Cristina Ricci.But the real choice stuff lies elsewhere. Downey Jr's extremely likable character is a delicious treat to watch. When he develops a crush on Maguire it's actually pretty endearing. I like the tasteful way that this movie handles the "love affair" between Downey and Maguire. Some other movie might have exploited it as a chance to be "daring" and "controversial." Here, the fact is treated with naturalistic ease. Seeing Maguire and Downey lying in bed together with their shirts off is not geared to raise eyebrows. It's a positive plot point about genuine affection, handled with warmth and jolly humor.And finally, an energetic subplot within a subplot involving a pregnant waittress named Oola (the underused beauty Jane Adams) and a neurotic James Brown lookalike named Vernon (hilariously played by Richard Knox) This entire block of the film feels like vintage Coen. With delightful off-center dialogues and moments of potentially lethal suspense handled with farcical sitcom glee. But, ultimately, the film gets by on its honest human emotions and it's the relationships that are at the heart of the film. The relationship between Douglas and Frances McDormand rings true, all the more aided by McDormand's heartfelt performance. And once Douglas begins to serve as a kind of father figure for Maguire it's even more moving. It could be that Maguire creates a character that projects vulnerability with intelligence. The film has many memorable moments with him at the center. I was eerily mesmerized in a scene where he alphabetically goes through a list of all the Hollywood movie stars that have committed suicide. There is a darkness there but at the same time, the scene has poignancy and it is the foreshadow to a touching scene involving Maguire's fascination with the coat Marilyn Monroe wore on her wedding day.Curtis Hanson has proven himself as a classy filmmaker. Gone are the days of plastic popcorn entertainment like "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle". With "L.A. Confidential" and now this, he has proven to be a meticulous and intelligent filmmaker that is very aware of the nuances of elegant cinematic storytelling and he knows how to work sensibly within the Hollywood system. It's rare to see a mainstream Hollywood film that isn't all that mainstream. "Wonder Boys" is a highly enjoyable and ultimately sober dramatic comedy with intelligence and truth... I even like the questionable fact that it boldly attempts to ultimately be an anti-drug parable. Hanson handles that point so subtly, that you wont feel as patronized as you should."
THE CHOICES WE MAKE IN LOVE & LIFE..
Shashank Tripathi | Gadabout | 06/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is of that quirky, self-aware cadre that makes people easily dismiss it as pretentious, or worse, pointless. But I believe those who ascribe such notions to the movie have clearly missed the plot's subtle nuances, and the humorous undercurrent that permeates the entire theme. Wonder Boys has that charming yet simple elegance that draws on its real but clumsy characters -- all pretty painstakingly drawn out as we almost live their fumbling lives. Professor Tripp (Douglas) in particular was very credible as just about anyone among us. James Leer's (McGuire) obsession with celebrity suicides is made light of and overcast by his pathological lying. Holmes is appropriately cast to tantalize. Plus, the score is something to cherish thanks in no small measure to Bob Dylan's superb "Things have changed". A good chuckle comedy with a wistful look at midlife, decisions to be made or avoided. Recommended for the discerning viewer."
Four star movie - 3 star DVD
Stephen McLeod | New York, NY USA | 04/19/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I liked this movie in the theater, although, as others here have noted, one has to forgive the cloyingly sentimental ending (the original novel handles this better, but not that much better). The performances by Douglas, McDormand, Downey and especially Toby Maguire are first rate. As a matter of fact, I pre-ordered it from Amazon the day after I saw it. Seeing it again on DVD produced mixed emotions.
First: I mean really "first." Before the movie starts, the screen is filled with the HORRIFYING message: "This film has been edited for content." WHAT???? This set up a sense of foreboding that never left me as I watched the movie. Not to worry: the content that was actually edited turns out to be in the list of celebrity suicides cited by Tobey in what I suppose is the movie's first act: Evidently, the theatrical version contained factual mistake[s].
Second: The sound is pretty dull. You'd think a picture that won its only Oscar for best song would have a digital track. It does not. Dolby 5.0 and 2.0 are your choices. Neither very attractive.
Third: Extra Features - REALLY lame. A running commentary by director Hanson would have been nice. The book's author, Michael Chabon, would have been even better. As it is, we get a whimsical tour through Pittsburg with the director. Blyuuck.
Fourth: There are annoying spots in the transfer where the image gets stuck and lines of dialog are lost. I know this has something to do with "layering" and, apparently, can't be avoided, but I've never seen it as bad as on this DVD.
Summing up: This movie never got the attention it deserved from audiences, and now it has gotten a sloppy DVD transfer. What a shame, because this was one of the better movies of 2000."