Movie Review

'Boys' leaves wonderful feelings



Campus Times
March 10, 2000


by Alisha Rosas
Managing Editor

Grady Tripp has talent and he knows it. His only problem is there are so many things going on with his life that he has no clue what to do with it.

In a story brought to life under the production and direction of Curtis Hanson, "Wonder Boys," based on the novel by Michael Chabon centers on the life of Tripp (Michael Douglas), a well-known author who teaches at a large university in Pittsburgh.

Tripp is known for his first novel, which made him famous. It is his second novel, however, that has his editor and his students wondering if he is blocked.

Finding ideas for the new, unfinished book is not his problem. In fact, at page 2,612, his only problem seems to be to find an ending to his ideas.

But how can he? He is surrounded by problems. Not only has his "latest" wife left him, but also his love affair with the university's chancellor (Frances McDormand) is supplying pressures of its own. His editor (Robert Downey Jr.) wants to know the progress on a book that is never ending and the female student (Katie Holmes) that is renting a room from enticed with him as a writer and flirts with him constantly.

It is the relationship with student James Leer (Tobey Maguire) that changes everything. Immediately Tripp becomes a lifeline for Leer, finding him in a forest near the chancellor's house with a pistol in hand. That negative writer in Tripp's class changes for Tripp into a suicidal young man due to Leer's obvious want for help. Tripp thus reaches out for Leer and tries to ignite a friendship with Leer, who is constantly making things up about his past and anything else that surrounds his life.

The duo of student and teacher provide comedic relief at just the right moments. Without a doubt, these two provide a sad story, but the laughs in between make the movie less of a tear-jerker and more of a dramatic comedy.

When Leer is introduced to Terry Crabtree and the three men share scenes together-the title "Wonder Boys" seems less metaphoric and falls into place.

Crabtree, a once-famous editor, thanks to the works of men like Tripp, is more burnt-out than anything else. At one point he admits to Tripp that his colleagues act as if he does not exist.

Tripp too, has problems of his own trying to figure out what to do with his own life and his lack of inspiration as a writer, while Leer's life is difficult due to his indifference and lifestyle. These men are 'wonders' in their own ways, in respect to the fact that they have not yet lost all hope.

Although the script to "Wonder Boys" does not follow any particular plot, it does provide the audience with a bumpy ride. It moves quickly and one should pay attention to comments made between actors to catch its entire underlying humor.

The one thing the movie does give its viewer is an understanding of the strength of the human spirit. There were times when Leer wanted to lean on Tripp, to use him as a form of support, instead Tripp really needed Leer to lean on himself.

The end result of the choices made by all of the characters leaves audience members commending not only the actors, director and author of this film; but it also makes one leave the theater feeling a little better than when they arrived.