Lionsgate – 11/17
Dir: Stephen Chbosky
Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Daveed Diggs, Mandy Patinkin, Sonia Braga, Izabela Vidovic
What It’s About: Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman. Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to discover their compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out. – official Lionsgate synopsis
Pros: An Oscar winner (Roberts) and one of the biggest names in child actors at the moment (Tremblay) combined with a strong studio and a killer release date make for a very hopeful and likely awards push. Emotional material could pull at the Academy’s heartstrings but also has a good dose of humor. It could be Lionsgate main awards push this year. Director Chbosky has proven himself able to handle young adult material well, having directed and written The Perks of Being a Wallflower, based on his own novel.
Cons: The trailer feels less awards-driven than box office driven and emotional gets into sappy territory quickly. Tremblay has had a hard time turning his Room success into something more. Older Academy voters may recall the 1985 film Mask, starring Eric Stoltz and Cher, which was also about a kid with facial deformities and his mom, and feel Wonder doesn’t have as much gravitas. Conversely to the ‘pro’ above, Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower did gain some awards traction throughout the season (including WGA and USC Scripter noms and a handful of critics’ wins) but ended up falling short come Oscar time.
The Bottom Line: There is definitely potential for Wonder hit both box office and awards but it’s not likely to do so with critics so it will depend on strong support within the industry to pull off the latter. Tremblay and Roberts may also again face category confusion (he with Room, her with August: Osage County) that could provide an obstacle to awards traction for either or both of them. At the moment, I’m not seeing Wonder as a major Oscar player but as previously thought strong contenders fall (as they do every year) other films rise and Wonder could do that.