Dir. Curtis Hanson. U.S.A.  2000.

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Coming-of- age is not limited to the transition from adolescence to adulthood. A coming-of-age emotionally can occur at any time in one's life. Winner of the AFI award for Movie of the Year in 2001, Wonder Boys features a commanding performance by Michael Douglas as Grady Tripp, a once great novelist who is now a burned out, pot-smoking English Professor at a college in Pittsburgh. Tripp has been working on a massive novel that has grown to 2611 pages for the last seven years, but who has lost the inspiration to complete it.

Set on the college campus, Professor Tripp is not having a good day. His wife has just left him, his lover (Frances McDormand), wife of the University Chancellor (Richard Thomas), tells him that she's pregnant, his flamboyant gay editor Terry Crabtree (Robert Downey, Jr.) is coming from New York for the college's annual writer's festival, and one of his most promising students, James Leer (Tobey McGuire), a brilliant but suicidal young writer, has attached himself to Tripp.

Out of these many and varied crises comes a comedy of wit and intelligence that includes such bizarre circumstances as the theft of Marilyn Monroe's fur coat, the unfortunate demise of the Chancellor's dog, a stolen Cadillac, a novel blowing in the wind, and much more. These strange occurrences bring with them the opportunity for Tripp to reassess his life and discover what new directions are open to him. Wonder Boys is brilliantly written, funny, and touching and one of my favorite films of the last decade. It is one of the few films I know that is comfortable with smoking pot and having sex, both gay and straight, not as a manipulative plot device or a display of weakness, but as a part of normal, every day life.



Howard Schumann

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