Wonder Boys (2000) Directed by Curtis Hanson
I felt uncomfortably at home with this movie – so entertained and snug, yet reluctant to admit it. The more I think about it now, the sicker it makes me feel... or at least it makes me a little nauseous. To scratch my own surface and to see where I fit in is not so comfortable. Wonder Boys is a white, American and middle class take on being a writer, being a bohemian and being in the college world – or should I say being an intellectual? It is also a masculine take on all the above (the women in the film are stereotypes of their own, thus their screen time need not be more than mere minutes).
Michael Douglas is the loser-type weed-smoking, underachieving genius writer/professor. He's also a fictional character. It is unnerving to realize I am in the target audience. I am a white Scandinavian, poor artist who is highly educated and currently taking care of her baby at home. I am therefore privileged many-fold and for all my theory on difference, queering, acceptance and feminist politics I cannot claim to have a perspective much more than this narrow scope combined with inexperience and timidity. So here I swing with my Gilmore Girls and now Wonder Boys. (who are all white, smoke weed and encounter transgendered people from time to time...)
There are many nice realizations in Wonder Boys, while at the same time the film appears to not want to solve and package the obviously untidy mess that life generally becomes when lived. I guess, this too is due to the script writer's superb calculation on what the target group needs to see. Still, the ending is syrup and it involves a woman getting out of a car with a baby. I was moved, I have to admit, and angry for falling for the sentiment. Also, disability, being gay, transgendered, black or a woman even are all sort of issues in the film but they appear to be identities that can be made acceptable through publishing deals, being an artist and/or having a baby.
It seems impossible to understand where do all the good people go? Where does the voice of protest, consideration, rationale go? Everywhere I look it's just some capitalist shithead espousing his unreasonable right to become richer and just screw everyone else. In the cheap seats the increasing chorus of have nots applaud. They can dream of affluence like the rest of us. More than ever, money in 2012 has become a privilege, a dividing line, the reckoning of where we will end up. It's like those idiots who criticize the Occupy movement because "those guys just made me late for work". Fucking eh. This week the coalition in the UK got shafted by the 'real' people at the local elections. The British public are obviously slow learners, but the evil of the Cameron/Clegg alliance is sinking in. They'll be back to cling onto power because Cameron, like all evil bastards, will twist and lie his way through any situation to cling to that power.
I'm writing this at a time where I feel aggrieved. Wonder Boys reminds me of how pretentious artists/creative types can be. It's the white, middle class who have the time to indulge their various muses. There is no rush to get anything out, just the time to make your contrived, poured over statements of intent. It's so bloody considered. As is Wonder Boys in its sometimes clichéd look at creativity. It's a privileged look at the rich pigs need to express themselves. Wonderfully acted one asks oneself of Wonder Boys: is this not the view of culture and history we are always presented with? White, bloated, self important/indulgent and comfortable. Is this film necessary? Yes Michael Douglas is good, but so what? His writer has no real need to tell us anything because he is so comfortable in his self-inflicted chaos and pain. He can afford to self inflict. Any poor people depicted in this picture are patronized and looked upon as freaks.
I'm being cruel here. Wonder Boys is alright. But I enjoyed the gratuitous violence/sexism/awfulness of The Expendables so much more (a film I watched the other night). The Expendables has no claim to high art. It knows it is shit and is honest with that. This makes The Expendables a better film than Wonder Boys. I've only come to this conclusion recently as I felt kinder to Wonder Boys straight after we watched it. My mood has been affected by news that Adam Yauch (MCA) of the Beastie Boys died last night and I guess I'm too angry about it. He was one of those good people. He took his privileged position and tried to enlighten. He was a hero of the modern age, so much more so than say the over-exalted Steve Jobs. More than ever we have to fight for the right to party. I'll miss Yauch's right to care about the human condition and a lot more besides. RIP MCA.