Let’s face it: 2017 has been a rough year. These are difficult and uncertain times, and I can think of a few messages that I for one would like to hear: what makes us different makes us special, and we should all do our best to choose kind. These are just a few of the beautiful precepts (to borrow a word from Mr. Browne) that Wonder puts at the forefront.
Based on the bestselling novel by R.J. Palacio, Wonder – in theaters today – stars Jacob Tremblay as Auggie Pullman, a young boy with facial differences who is attending public school for the first time in his life. This new experience brings plenty of new challenges, but also unexpected friends. The movie also notably stars Owe n Wilson and Julia Roberts as Auggie’s parents, Hamilton‘s Daveed Diggs as one of his teachers, and Mandy Patinkin as the school principal.
Wonder is by turns heartwarming and heartbreaking. The movie does a great job of letting you in on Auggie’s experience, from his shy entry into public school to the thrill of making new friends and the crushing disappointment when people react cruelly or insensitively to his face. Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider will be able to relate on some level.
While the poor reactions to Auggie are numerous (and punch you right in the feels), the film also allows the audience and Auggie’s classmates to discover how he’s really not so different from everyone else after all. He loves Star Wars – something Wonder plays with in unexpected and humorous ways – Halloween, and hanging out with his dog, and he also has a huge heart. Seeing Auggie’s kindness, humor, and growing bravery affect those around him is truly a joy.
Beyond Jacob Tremblay’s wonderful performance as Auggie – nuanced, emotional, and important – the film is rounded out by an all-around great cast. Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts – well – what is there to say? They are funny, charming, and perfect. Daveed Diggs is exactly the kind of teacher we all loved (or wish we had). I would have loved to see more from the adult cast, since they were fantastic, but I also enjoyed seeing the kids have their chance to shine.
Two performances that more so took me by surprise were Izabela Vidovic as Auggie’s big sister Via and Nadji Jeter as Via’s boyfriend, Justin. Jeter is charismatic, caring, and funny and quickly became a favorite from this cast. Vidovic is doing a lot with a quiet, smart character – one who has given up so much while never complaining and is now trying to somehow find her own spotlight and live as a normal teenager. Via’s feelings for her brother are wrapped up with so much love for him, but also guilt for wanting anything for herself when he has so many struggles. I was really impressed by the complexity Izabela brought to the role.
Wonder is an important film for people of all ages. It’s also a fairly faithful adaptation of the also wonderful novel – while there are undeniably some changes, it stays true to the spirit of the book and includes many scenes and lines book readers will recognize. I loved getting to know these characters and seeing them choose kind – something we should all aspire to do as often as we can. Go see it and let Auggie and his family and friends inspire you, too.
Wonder is in theaters now.
Featured Image via Movie Insider