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Wonder Boys  

Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas)
James Leer (Tobey Maguire)
Sara Gaskell (Frances McDormand)
Terry Crabtree (Robert Downey, Jr.)
Hannah Green (Katie Holmes)

Directed by Curtis Hanson Written by Steve Kloves based on the novel by Michael Chabon
Rated R for language, drug content and sexual content
Running Time: 112 minutes Distributed by Paramount

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Wonder Boys is a well-made and character-driven drama. Grady Tripp (Douglas) is a 50 year old, pot-smoking writer/professor living in Pittsburgh. Grady hasn't had any material published since he wrote an award-winning novel 7 years ago. However, Grady's life will change over the current weekend. A few obstacles that face Grady over the weekend are a unfinished book, a murdered dog, a slick publisher named Crabtree (Downey, Jr.), a pregnant lover named Sara (McDormand) and a student named Hannah (Holmes) that has a crush on him. Grady finds himself reeling from incident to incident in the company of his most gifted writing student, James Leer (Maguire). James accompanies Grady through his weekend of self-discovery and inspiration.

Wonder Boys is a terrific film that contains a little bit of everything in it. The film contains strong drama, lovable comedy, an unlikely romance and unique inspiration. Director Curtis Hanson does a potent and effective job directing Wonder Boys. Hanson's previous credits include The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, The River Wild and L.A. Confidential. I have always loved Hanson's vision towards his projects. Hanson brings parallel structure and balanced camera shots to all his projects. Hanson continues his good direction with Wonder Boys. One of the best shots in the film is when Grady and James are looking at Marilyn Monroe's jacket. Hanson uses a mirror in this shot to give audiences the reflection of Grady above James. I found that this shot visually shows how the two characters begin to connect in the film.

Steve Kloves adapted Wonder Boys from the novel of the same name by Michael Charbon. The characters and development are excellent in the film. Though it seemed a few times that some characters fell out of the film for a while, each character in the film served a pivotal role. I like the whole structure of the script from plot point to plot point. The sequencing was simple, not complicated for this character-sketched story.

Wonder Boys is mixed with talented veteran and young actors. Michael Douglas plays the colorful Grady Tripp with perfect characterization. One little aspect that Douglas sticks with in pulling off his dominant performance is that he is always engulfed in his character. An example is that Grady gets bit on the leg by a dog 20 minutes into the film, and he limps with the pain for the rest of the film. Douglas just doesn't walk off the pain in a few scenes, like many actors would do. The little things like this are what make Douglas' performance so memorable. Tobey Maguire continues to shine as one of the best young actors in Hollywood. Maguire conquers his character in a very patient and simple manner. I also very happy to see Frances McDormand returning to the screen. McDormand has only done a couple of films since her Academy Award winning performance in Fargo. McDormand does a nice job in Wonder Boys and I hope to see her doing more films in the future. Robert Downey, Jr. also turns in a strong supporting performance as Grady's anxious publisher Terry Crabtree.

Wonder Boys is a film that I believe will find its own audience at the box office. It is a very balanced and enjoyable film.

Report Card Grade: B+

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