Two movies with Julianne Moore, four performances. Yes, this is her second film I saw in as many days with dual performances. Directed by visual auteur Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, I’m Not There, Carol), Wonderstruck unfolds two narratives, seemingly disconnected: one set in the 20s, where a young deaf girl runs away from home seeking out a famous actress, and one in the 70s, where a young boy runs away in search of the father he never knew. Obviously, there is a thematic connection between the stories, and stronger ties are eventually revealed.
The children (Oakes Fegley in the 70s, Millicent Simmonds in the 20s) do the heavy lifting, with Fegley being an interesting and engaging presence, and the deaf-in-real-life Simmonds bearing the brunt of her entire segment unfolding without dialogue. The visual styles between the periods are stark as well – the 20s is full black and white, with New York in the 70s every bit as bright, colorful and gaudy as the decade itself. Fegley’s Ben makes friends with another youngster (Jaden Michael) and they tool around the same museum that Simmonds’ Rose spent time in half a century before.
It’s a sweet film, though really only has enough story to fill about twenty minutes, so it does feel a bit overstuffed at nearly two hours. It’s a visual treat though, with Haynes’ films always have a unique identity. The culmination of the movie, the set piece involved and the approach to it, is all very fascinating. Still, it’s a bit like a movie intended for kids but made for adults, and ultimately leaving both audiences wanting. Moore is decent in her roles, but only on screen for enough time to make a minimal impact.
It’s a nice movie, a feel-good movie even, but also a bit lacking when it compared to its potential.
My Grade – C+