“Wonderstruck” Has Lots on Its Mind But Fails to Gel

Wonderstruck (C-), the new film by Todd Haynes from a screenplay by Brian Selznick, who adapted his prestigious book of the same title, feels like walking into an unfinished exhibit at a museum. There are some glorious visuals and some hints of breakthrough ideas, but it all simply doesn’t hang together. Child actors Oakes Fegley and Millicent Simmonds unconvincingly play runaways in two interlocking stories, each mysteriously lured to NYC on inexplicable parallel quests in the ‘20s and ‘70s, respectively. Both kids are afflicted with hearing loss and a yearning to discover a missing parent, but there’s a stunning lack of urgency to their collective plights. Haynes fails to adequately plumb the mind and motivations of his young protagonists, and wisps of cameos by great actresses
Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams don’t get us any closer to satisfaction. It’s all fetishized set pieces built with loving care and little regard for what it’s all supposed to mean. For a director generally so in command of his craft, this seems to be a wasted opportunity, a pretty curated vessel of secondary outtakes and idea fragments.

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