As adults, we seem to lose sight of the simple awesomeness of the world. It comes at the price of gaining momentum in the rat race, becoming engulfed with raising our children and simply keeping our households in order. But the new film Wonder, directed by Stephen Chbosky (Beauty & The Beast, Rent) and based on the New York Times best-selling book by R.J. Palacio brings it all back into perspective.
The Inspiring Plot
Wonder tells the story of August “Auggie” Pullman, a fictional boy with a deformity the author empathetically refers to as a “facial difference.” The movie follows Auggie as he goes from the isolation of home schooling to harsh realities of middle school. At 10 years old, he goes to class with other children for the first time in his life as a 5th grader.
Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson star as Auggie’s parents, while Mandy Patinkin (Homeland) portrays a kind and caring middle-school principal.
“Julia Roberts, she loved R.J.’s book. She read it out loud to her kids at night and she was in [accepted the role] because of the book,” says Chbosky.
The film is aptly named, as audiences get to see a kid who is different bravely face the world with humor and resilience. Just when you think you can’t… this character reminds you that you can! Audiences also get to see the kids around show grace and humility—for the most part—while they also struggle with moral aptitude governed by the laws of middle school.
“The world can be a tough place,” says Palacio, who was inspired to write the story after a brief encounter with her son and a child with a facial difference at an ice cream shop where she, as a parent, humbly admits she didn’t know how to explain to her son the humanity in deformities.
Bringing the Book to Life
“It’s a tough enough subject,” says filmmaker Chbosky. “And so, my approach was to get as much humor as possible,” he says about bringing the story from novel to script to screen.
In fact, the humor and humility in the film almost makes filmgoer forget that he or she is watching someone with an abnormality (child actor Jacob Tremblay beautifully masters the role while wearing a prosthetic face).
“I cannot tell you how many people [have reached out to us]. Any mom with a child, certainly in middle school, can relate to this movie because there can be challenges for everybody,” says Chbosky.
Inspiring, uplifting and a film that will probably make you cry, Wonder reminds audiences that no one can ever really blend in, when you were born to stand out.
“Millions and millions of people are better because they read this book.”
Wonder is Author's First Book
This was Palacio’s first foray into writing a novel. Having built a career as an illustrator and artist, Palacio spent years working on this story, writing in a room she converted from a closet.
“It’s such a surreal experience to sort of remember being in my little home office—in the middle of the night writing my book and to—years later—see those characters come to life,” says Palacio of her 2012 debut novel.
Palacio can thank her screenwriter and director for that. Unlike many other directors in Hollywood, Chbosky could relate to Palacio on a personal level because he, too, had his 1999 debut book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, turned into a movie.
“I wanted to make one of her first days on set incredible memorable and special,” recalls ChBosky. So, he brought Palacio up on stage with his star actress.
“One thing that’s really funny is that you would think that she would be really nervous to meet Julia Roberts, but Julia Roberts was actually very nervous to meet her, and I’m talking to both of them, kind of like middle school, honestly, saying like ‘No, you’ll like each other. I promise!”
Rated PG, Wonder is reminiscent of the 1985 film Mask, starring Cher and directed by actor Peter Bogdonavich (The Sopranos) because it follows a boy who has a face that is different, buoyed by his mother’s unwavering love and support—but it doesn’t sugar coat the hard fact that the world can be a cold place.
Parents of children around 10 years old and older should consider seeing this movie as a family when it’s released in theaters November 17. Get the extra-large popcorn and don't forget the tissue!
Markette Sheppard is host of Great Day Washington and your resident "Mom at the Movies." She is also a wife, mother of a rambunctious 4-year-old and avid film lover. You can see more of her movie previews and reviews weekdays at 9 am.