Today! Because he probably calls everybody Vernon –
Wonder Boys (2000)
Directed by Curtis Hanson
Starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., Frances McDormand, Katie Holmes, Rip Torn, Alan Tudyk, Philip Bosco, Richard Thomas
I loved this movie when I first saw it nineteen years ago – That screenplay! Those characters! – but I’ll admit it may not be holding up quite so well anymore. I’m not sure I ever would’ve had this in the top 100, but 200 seems totally reasonable, had I been ranking down that far in the early ’00s. Something resonated with me in Douglas’s writer cranking out a seemingly never-ending book, amidst the spiraling chaos of his academic environs. I especially remember the ending (not to spoil it, but you have had nearly two decades to watch it by now) being one of the most devastating things I’d seen at the time. I really fancied myself a writer back then, so I think that makes sense.
Also, I’ve been working on and off on a wacky Choose Your Own Adventure/Which Way game novel for, oh, a dozen years now, which is somewhere in the 180,000 words area, so even now this end of the film hits me pretty hard. Man, I’ve gotta finish that book. It’s a thought running in the background of my mind pretty much all the time. Instead, I decided to document my 400 favorite movies on this blog. Hey, needed to get back in the swing of paragraphing!
In rewatching Wonder Boys, maybe I’m a little too weirded out by Downey’s jerk agent and his predatory relationship with Maguire’s damaged and confused young writer – a briefly blown through subplot, but still. The script and dialogue are still wonderful, and the acting is pretty top notch across the board, but there’s an ickiness to the whole thing I didn’t feel back in college. It’s still on this list, but barely clinging there.
In addition to Bob Dylan’s Oscar winning song, I think it would be fair to award Wonder Boys with the honor of Best Cinematic Trunk Space (suck it, Out of Sight!), for containing that tuba, garment bag, suitcase, and murdered dog.