Wonderstruck – Movie Review

By Leslie C. Halpern

Wonderstruck is built on a promise. If you sit through nearly two hours watching the magical teasing together of two plotlines slowly converging, the final payoff will be worth the wait. Unfortunately, Wonderstuck does not fully deliver on its promise.

Julianne Moore and Oakes Fegley star in Wonderstruck. Photo copyright 2017 Amazon Studios.

Two Stories from Different Time Periods

The two stories concern a girl and boy from different time periods. A sweet deaf girl named Rose (Millicent Simmonds, who is actually deaf) lives alone with her disapproving father in New Jersey in 1927. She’s obsessed with a silent movie actress (Julianne Moore) and runs off to New York City to see her. Rose’s older brother also lives there and works at the nearby American Museum of Natural History where Rose enjoying wandering through the rooms.

Although she is advised to go back home to her father, she decides to stay in New York. Rose’s silent world makes a sharp contrast to the noisy action of Manhattan’s city streets. Oblivious to the potential dangers around her, she seeks family and a sense of belonging, and is willing to go wherever it takes to find it.

Seeking Family in New York City

In the parallel story about the boy, Ben (Oakes Fegley, an expressive young actor known for his role of Pete in the 2016 action adventure, Pete’s Dragon) lives in Minnesota in 1977. His mother recently died in a car accident, and he’s staying with his aunt and disagreeable cousin. He finds a romantic message to his mother inside an old book about cabinets of wonder – the earliest form of museum. The note is written on a bookmark indicating a used bookstore in New York.

As Ben calls the phone number listed for the store, a freak lightning strike goes through the telephone receiver and causes him to go deaf in both ears. This latest setback doesn’t deter 11-year-old Ben from jumping on a bus and traveling to New York City to find clues about the love note, presumably written by the mysteriously missing father he’s never known. Like Rose, he’s deaf, alone, and seeking family and a sense of belonging. He finds a new friend, Jamie (Jaden Michael), who helps him adjust to his deafness, and find the answer to the question about his father’s whereabouts.

A Disappointing Ending

The grand sweeping cinematography (Edward Lachmna), enchanting music (Carter Burwell), lush production design of two different eras (Mark Friedberg) and suspenseful direction (Todd Haynes, who also directed Julianne Moore in Far from Heaven) imply that these two stories will combine in an “aha” moment that will send chills down your spine. Intended as a family film, young children may experience this sense of wonder while piecing it all together. However, adults are far less likely to be wonderstruck by this ultimately disappointing film.


  • The lives of a young boy in the present and a young girl from the past connect in a mysterious way.
  • Stars: Oakes Fegley, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Millicent Simmonds, Jaden Michael Smith, James Urbaniak
  • Director: Todd Haynes
  • Writer: Brian Selznick (based on his book, Wonderstruck)
  • Genre: Drama Mystery
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • MPAA Rating: PG (for thematic elements and smoking)


Family Programming at 2016 Florida Film Festival

By Leslie C. Halpern

The 25th Annual Florida Film Festival, produced by Enzian Theater and held from April 8-17 throughout Central Florida, offers more than 180 feature and short films from 36 countries, in addition to celebrity guests, special events, film forums, and parties. This year’s festival includes competing films in narrative features and documentary programs, plus special screenings of food films, international films, midnight movies, and Florida films.

In keeping with its annual tradition, family programing includes a sidebar with intriguing new independently produced, kid-friendly films that you probably won’t find at the local cineplex.

April and the Extraordinary World

(Screens Saturday, April 9, noon – 1:45 p.m. at Regal Winter Park Village A)

April and the Extraordinary World. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

April and the Extraordinary World. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Co-directors Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci, present an animated alternative history of a steampunk Paris, France, in 1941 that’s stuck in the industrial middle ages. An orphaned teenaged girl named April (Avril) and her talking cat try to combat the dense fog and pollution suffocating the city and its people. Aided by her grandfather and a young police informer, she launches a search for the missing scientists (which include her parents) who have mysteriously vanished, and who can bring science and technology to this dark, dreary, underdeveloped society. Based on a graphic novel by Jacques Tardi, the English-language version of this animated action adventure comedy includes the vocal talents of Paul Giamatti, Tony Hale, Susan Sarandon, and J.K. Simmons.

  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • In English
  • MPAA Rating: PG (for action/peril including gunplay, some thematic elements and rude humor)
  • Additional Note: In French, originally titled Avril et le monde truque and starred the vocal talents of Marion Cotillard, Philippe Katerine, and Jean Rochefort
  • Purchase from Amazon.com.

Phantom Boy

(Screens Sunday, April 17, noon – 1:30 p.m. at Regal Winter Park Village A)

Phantom Boy. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Phantom Boy. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol (the team who created the Oscar-nominated A Cat in Paris), this feature focuses on a sick boy named Leo, who has superpowers that allow him to temporarily leave his body during his chemotherapy treatments and float over New York City. During these surreal experiences, he helps other children, and teams with a wheelchair-bound policeman and a reporter to thwart the efforts of Broken Face, an evil mobster threatening to destroy the city. This animated fantasy includes the vocal talents of Audrey Tautou, Edouard Baer, Jean-Pierre Marielle, and Jackie Berroyer.

  • Run Time: 84 minutes
  • In French with English subtitles
  • Florida Premiere
  • MPAA Rating: PG (for thematic elements)
  • Purchase from Amazon.com.

Taking Flight

(Screens before Phantom Boy)

Taking Flight. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Taking Flight. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Inspired by the life of Antonio Pasin, the inventor of the Radio Flyer Wagon, this animated short is the latest offering from Brandon Oldenburg, the Oscar-winning director of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and The Numberlys. This time, a young boy and his grandfather turn a boring day into an unforgettable adventure with a very special wagon. This animated short includes the vocal talents of Asher Blinkoff, Kevin Rahm, and Ray Wise.

  • Run Time: 5 minutes
  • In English
  • Southeast Premiere
  • MPAA Rating: Unrated.

For more information about the Florida Film Festival, visit the official website at www.floridafilmfestival.com.