Wonderstruck

Wonderstruck tells two parallel stories, set 50 years apart. In one, a little girl named Rose travels to New York City to track down her mother, a famous silent film star, circa 1927. New York City is no place for a kid traveling alone but Rose, who is deaf, is brave and smart. Meanwhile, in 1977, Ben is another runaway on the loose after his mother dies and an accident leaves him newly deaf. Determined to find the father he never knew, he too heads for New York City. And since you’ve surely seen a movie before, you can probably guess that at some point these stories will somehow intersect.

Millicent Simmonds, deaf in real life, had no prior acting experience before being 20Wonderstruck-web1-superJumbocast, but she wowed both director Todd Haynes and Julianne Moore with her audition. On set she communicated primarily through an American Sign Language interpreter, while Haynes sent many cast members on a walk through NYC wearing noise-cancelling headphones to get a sense of the city’s quiet side. Rose’s portions of the film are shot in black and white, and Simmonds has a terrific face for it – curious and expressive, her eyes lighting the way.

Oakes Fegley plays Ben, a kid who feels orphaned and is further isolated when he loses his hearing. Unlike Rose, his deafness feels more like an obstacle – he  hasn’t yet learned to navigate the world without hearing. And neither have we, but Haynes occasionally immerses us is quiet, the sort of quiet that feels pregnant with possibility.

Todd Haynes is the king of period pieces, and Wonderstruck affords him the opportunity to hit the jackpot: double periods! Nobody could embrace it any better. And he certainly has a knack for delighting us visually, bringing art to life, and cities to life, and museums to life, and inner life to life. What he stumbles with are the required shifts in tone. We flip back and forth between the two children’s stories and Haynes has tried to make each story line look and feel distinct. But those shifts can feel abrupt. Haynes drenches us in visual poetry but there’s an emotional disconnect that kept me from being truly wonderstruck. The sets are great, the costumes are great, the score is really something, but the parts somehow add up to just an okay whole. It lacks in whimsy but there is still joy to be found in discovering something new.

 

 

***And since we’re all here and you’re every so kindly reading, can we just take a minute to consider this: first-run movies are rarely accessible to deaf people. They often have to attend special screenings, or use special equipment, and if those aren’t available, they’re waiting for a DVD. There’s an easy fix. Why not make movies more accessible by simply captioning them?

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18 thoughts on “Wonderstruck

  1. Lorna Cunningham-Rushton

    My day has just become a mixture of physiotherapy follow-ups. I’m so far behind in my mail, but you’re still one of my favourite correspondents, so please don’t give up on me…

    On Thu, Mar 1, 2018 at 7:53 AM, ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES wrote:

    > Jay posted: “Wonderstruck tells two parallel stories, set 50 years apart. > In one, a little girl named Rose travels to New York City to track down her > mother, a famous silent film star, circa 1927. New York City is no place > for a kid traveling alone but Rose, who is de” >

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    1. Jay Post author

      I feel the same way, that illness and pain can overwhelm my days and control my social life, but every drop like this is truly precious.

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  2. karengadient

    My mother was deaf, and I used to go see a movie once before taking her to it, so I could summarize it for her in as much detail as possible (in somewhat of an essay form) before she went with me the second time. This was decades ago and things haven’t improved much.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Holy cow. That must really colour how you experience movies. But you’re right, there isn’t a lot of improvement. The big chains will usually advertise when a film has closed captioning with CC, but even that is extremely iffy. Captions don’t work, or the equipment’s broken. And even with captions, lots of them are woefully inadequate. They may provide dialogue, but there are lots of other sounds that make the complete picture.

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      1. karengadient

        Yeah, it still does, although my mother passed away a few years ago. Even though I’m not hearing-impaired myself, I still prefer to watch movies with captions and I honestly can’t understand why it’s not simply default to run them. After all, even hearing folks can miss an important line or misunderstand an accent.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Jay Post author

      Yes, I often turn on the captions myself for that exact reason. Volume goes up and down, movies themselves have ambient noise, let alone the crowded theatres we see them in – dialogue often gets lost or mumbled.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I totally agree. If I’m at home, I sometimes will have to “rewind” it to catch what I’ve missed but in theatres we don’t have that option, and whispering to Sean will only make us both miss the next bit!

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  3. Tom

    Captions are helpful. But Im wondering what a nightmare it would be to attach captions to a movie directed and/or written by Aaron Sorkin. We are talking paragraphs of text that would build on the screen. Or the pace at which the lines would have to clear in order to make room for the next would be so hectic, it would leave most in greater confusion than if they weren’t there. But this is a terribly awkward situation for the deaf and hard of hearing. It makes me mad there aren’t more screenings that are equipped especially to deal with special needs. I really don’t want captions on all my movies. I hear what this guy is saying (thanks for including that link btw, really was insightful) but in truth, the only time I truly benefit from CC is when a film is spoken in a foreign language, or when I miss a line or two, rewind and re-watch with captions turned on. But that is just my view. I hope I’m not being really insensitive. Thats certainly not my intention.

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  4. Liz A.

    When I saw Wall-E in the theater, it was the captioned showing. Yup, all those mechanical sounds they make were printed on the screen.

    I had heard of this movie. I’ll probably catch it eventually.

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  5. Ste J

    I’ve not seen the film yet but I found the book a lot less interesting that The Invention of Hugo Cabret and it seems the film may follow the same pattern.

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  6. Pingback: SXSW: A Quiet Place | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

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