Cannes Film Festival
The Cannes Film Festival is in full-swing and acclaimed director Todd Haynes’ (Carol, Far From Heaven) highly-anticipated adaptation of Brian Selznick’s YA novel WONDERSTRUCK was one of the first films screened at the fest — and it was met with reviews that ranged from raves to lukewarm.
The film follows the parallel journeys of two deaf children — one in 1927, the other in 1977. The two follow a map of their personal histories and end up in New York. Haynes directed the script from a script written by Selznick and if there is one thing critics agreed on it’s the breakout performance from newcomer Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actress making her big-screen debut.
David Ehrlich from Indiewire praised the film declaring it “a soul-stirring and fiercely uncynical film that suggests the entire world is a living museum for the people we’ve lost, and that we should all hope to leave some of ourselves behind in its infinite cabinet of wonders.” David Rooney from The Hollywood Reporter was also a fan of the film saying, “Alive with the magic of pictures and the mysteries of silence, this is an uncommonly grownup film about children, communication, connection and memory. While it’s something of a departure for Haynes and may divide fans hoping for more of the cool sophistication of Carol, Wonderstruck is unmistakably the work of an artisan whose attention to detail mirrors the role of museum curators celebrated in the story.”
Gregory Ellwood from Collider was somewhat in the same camp saying, “Haynes smartly uses Selznick’s script as a roadmap for unique cinematic and unexpected flourishes even when it might not have dictated it. There is also tenderness to the story that Haynes plays particularly close attention to.”
As for some other critics, there was a consensus that Haynes is a fantastic visual storyteller, but Wonderstruck didn’t cut it. Owen Gleiberman from Variety said, “Todd Haynes is a transcendent filmmaker, one who can haunt your imagination and carry you away, but in Wonderstruck, there’s more artistry in his storytelling than there is in the intricate mechanical story he’s telling.”
He continues to say, “Wonderstruck is a movie that literally tries to add up, piece by piece, into a fully assembled puzzle of greatness, but the puzzle is less than transporting because you can still see all the seams.”
In Richard Lawson’s take in Vanity Fair, he praises the film saying it is “a mighty thing to behold, offering up a lush visual and aural landscape that is frequently breathtaking.” But then reveals that he walked out of the screening totally unmoved and admits, “The film is downright sloppy at the end—no less gorgeous to look at and listen to, but narratively rushed and manipulative. In a war between Haynes’s judicious intellect and Selznick’s boutique treacle, the treacle eventually wins.” It’s a nice, soft backhanded compliment.
But out of all of the critics, it was Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian who wasn’t afraid mincing words saying, “Disappointmentstruck and even rather boredomstruck are reasonable descriptions of my emotional state, having sat through this contrived, self-conscious and twee YA fantasy from director Todd Haynes.”
Despite the mixed reviews, critics still believe, based on Haynes’ reputation, the pedigree of the film (it also stars Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams), and finely executed technical aspects of the film, that it will be a big Oscar contender. I guess we’ll have to wait until October 20 when it opens in theaters to see.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Film Critic