Wonderful “Wonder Boys” 4 the Writer’s Writer

I don’t get to say this often, certainly not in the past couple months, but this movie was awesome and Robert Downey is not the reason I believe so.

Oddly enough, I found myself… well, at odds, with how I felt about his character.
Terry Crabtree is promiscious, first of all.
And second of all, he’s the type of guy who is in it for the money and fame rather than friendship and loyalty.

The way I choose to put it is that he probably had more in common with David Barnes of “Soapdish” in his relationship to Sally Fields’s Celeste than Rick Peck’s relationship to Tugg Speedman.

It might have to do with the fact he was “whipped” by Cathy Moriarty in Soapdish, but I know his character is supposed to be a slimeball only concerned with his own interests… the most prominent being getting in bed with his girlfriend… but I didn’t find him necessarily “repulsive” as much as I had with Terry Crabtree.

As Michael Douglas said at the end of the film “Crabtree… is still Crabtree”
As if his name is a play on words.

Okay, “repulsive” might be a strong word… but in between commercials and lag between screentime, I wasn’t given the chance to really warm up to him quite as much as a lot of other roles.

Compared to “A Guide to Recognizing Saints,” I believe in the previous film I was able to establish a connection with him whether I believed he was playing a character or being himself… there is more of Terry Crabtree in the 2nd half of the film, but how I felt about him was literally on the fence.

His sexual promoscuity, I found to be a little odd, first of all. The fact we first see him with a man dressed as a woman makes you wonder where this guy stands… and its somewhat of a red flag where, after the initial confusion, I found Anthonia/Tony to be very sweet and perhaps a much better person than Crabtree could ever be. Tony comes with Crabtree after meeting him on the airplane and by the end of the night, he asks Prof. Tripp (Michael Douglas) to take him somewhere else. It’s assumed that Crabtree made a movie and Tony wasn’t feeling the direction he was coming from… apparently he pulls a lot of “tricks” in the bedroom.

Then it appears that there’s something going on between him and Tobey Maguire’s character James Leer… which I’m not even sure what to make of it. Conventional wisdom tells me that Crabtree was taking advantage of James, especially considering the stupor he gets in that first night between the codine and alcohol he consumes.

Anyway, I can safely say that Terry Crabtree was one of my least favorite Downey performances and it annotes to two things:
being primarily in it for the money and little else
promoscuity/questionable personal conduct

I believe that he also played such a [promiscous] character in “One Night Stand” and was part of the reason he ended up with the fate he did… but I believed Charlie at least had some morals.Downey aside, it lived up to my expectations of it being a great movie.
Perhaps one of the best I’d seen in a long time.

It certainly spoke to my soul, both as a writer and one of is a sucker for stories about teachers who make a difference in the lives of their students.

This may be the first time I saw Michael Douglas act, though I can’t say that for certain… I don’t know what it was, but it was very easy to be around him. He brought so much to the screen that I can definitely see why he’s admired.
Okay, scratch that… I had seen him in “Ghosts of my Girlfriends’ Past” as Matthew McConaughey’s uncle, his “Jacob Marley,” if you will.

The movie takes place over a weekend where a lot of things in Prof. Grady Tripp’s life are coming together or going wrong. It’s WordFest on campus (the same Carnegie Mellon of Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture) which is a yearly gathering of writers. His editor Terry Crabtree is flying in for it, and he suspects has the ulterior motive of seeing where he is with his 2nd novel, for which he had waited 7 years to see. The morning of, Prof Tripp’s wife leaves him, and his class is in workshop mode, where all but Hannah (who happens to be renting a room in Prof. Tripp’s house) tear apart James’s story, saying how it made them feel suicidal and depression.

You see right away that James isn’t not your typical college student, nor your typical person. He’s somewhat eccentric, although most of the students seem to think he’s somewhat demented as well. Considering some of the dialogue that comes out of his mouth, I’m willing to bet that James is autistic, and if so, most likely to have Asperberger’s, since he’s a highly functioning individual.

Prof. Tripp also happens to be sleeping with the wife of the Chancellor of the university and she tells him that she’s pregnant. A lot of the movie she spends battling with the idea of whether or not to go through with it and doesn’t want to admit to her husband of being unfaithful.

Later at the party, he meets James and has a talk with him where both confess their awe of one another. Under the impression James would be impressed by this, he takes him into the Chancellor’s bedroom and shows him a sweater that Marilyn Monroe wore to her wedding to Joe Dimaggio. James is literally in awe… and how could you not be? It’s a nice sweater.
Hilarity ensues when James shots the Chancellor’s dog after it refuses to let go of Prof. Tripp’s leg. It’s blind, but seems to have a huge dislike for him… as if it senses that he’s somewhat of a homewrecker with the sleeping with the wife and all. They put the dog in the trunk of his car and James says that how everything fit in there perfectly… yet another comment leading me to my hypnothesis. As does one scene where he tells Prof. Tripp, Crabtree and Antonia about all of these writers and how they died. After doing so, Crabtree says “you listed them in alphabetical order”

James does have his eccentricities, which includes him repeating sentences that Prof. Tripp said maybe a couple minutes ago to remedy a situation, and it gets to a point where he suspects that James has not said a single thing that was true because of the quoting and how some things he’s said were lifted from books.

In the same first night, after they off the dog and put it in the trunk, Prof. Tripp searches Crabtree’s luggage for something to remedy his ankle (a sounveir from the dog). He finds a bottle of codine and downs it with a small bottle of alcohol he keeps in his pocket. James then does the same and after downing the alcohol to swallow it with, he spits it and out and the pill sticks to Prof. Tripp’s jacket… I dunno what it was, but that had me rolling around with laughter for even minutes after the fact.

James does a lot of outlandish things and I do suspect Crabtree is taking advantage of that and him… he and Prof. Tripp go to a store and he’s drinking orange juice out of the container before even paying for it… and it seems he has the munchies.
Almost forget… Prof. Tripp has a personal stash of weed and James gets a little of that action, explaining the munchies.

A couple of times, his 2nd novel comes up. We see him typing it up and he narrates that he is searching for an ending and having trouble finding it. Clearly, seeing as its 2611+ pages long. Hannah, played by Katie Holmes, has a couple scenes here and there where she’s asking about the book and reading it. There are also scenes where Crabtree has his eyes on the manuscript and Prof. Tripp is hell-bent on not letting him come near it until it’s finished.

It comes out in a very late phone call that the affair is happening and James is arrested for suspected robbery (he took the Marilyn Monroe sweater) and “dog”-slaughter. Sarah, the Chancellor’s Wife seems on the fence about where to go with the affair and the pregnancy, but ultimately with a little coaxing and last minute action from Prof. Tripp, they do end up together in the end.

There’s also a really outlandish storyline thrown in that transpires after Prof. Tripp meets James and Crabtree at a club. As they’re leaving, this little Puerto Rican guy is standing in front of his car, saying that it’s his car and at one point he actually sits on the hood before taking off… completely weird, makes no sense why he should think it’s his car.
Later on, the car and sweater goes missing and Prof. Tripp believes that the Puerto Rican guy had something to do with it. He and Crabtree take Hannah’s car and they find his car. Prof. Tripp goes ahead and the guy points a gun to his head, ordering him out of the car. For some unforeseen reason, he actually brings his manuscript with him and when Crabtree drives Hannah’s car towards them to shake the Puerto Rican guy, the window being open results in the manuscript’s disappearance into the river and the wreckage of Hannah’s car.

That’s the type of thing you really hate to see happen to a guy, especially with so many pages and no back-up.
Crabtree says that it might be a sign and ultimately, it becomes as such.

The story ends where you expect it would. James doesn’t get charges pressed against him. Crabtree not only offers to publish James’s book “The Love Parade” but the Chancellor’s as well… hey, whatever makes him happy. He seemed to think James had a lot of promise and just needed “a good editor”

By the by, the Marilyn sweater, we last see on the shoulders of the girlfriend of the Puerto Rican guy and Prof. Tripp lets her keep it.

So… I guess the only thing left to discuss is Hannah.
First of all, Katie Holmes is most definitely a deadringer for Christina Ricci in her younger days.
And I believe this was the only time I liked her… I just could never wrap my mind around why she and Tom Cruise ended up together when he’s just about old enough to be her father.

Yeah sure, I’m prejudiced about that and yet I have no trouble falling for actors that have that much of an age difference with me.

Before seeing this, I had just about had the song “Hannah” figured out… now I’m pretty much confused all over again. It’s supposedly an allusion to the movie, but where is the connection?

The namesake can’t be all there is.
Hannah is renting a room in Prof. Tripp’s house… so that would explain why “Hannah done sleep on my floor everyday”
The 2nd verse does make a little more sense. You sense a little bit of sexual tension between her and Prof. Tripp but it doesn’t really full take shape or go anywhere.

“Hannah, the clock’s done tickin’ on my own motivation… you kill with a look and your own special brand of temptation”

and I can only suspect that the manuscript is referred to in the lines “simple and slow, it grows” which have eluded me for the longest time almost to the point of annoyance.

Yet the whole jazzy/scat sense with involving the words “buckskin, rootin’ for a suicide, boy-king, stomping beast and dark demanding child” has not made clear at all… why are we rooting for a suicide and who is involved?

The only thing I can pretty much take away from this is that Hannah has a special relationship with her landlord where her presence alone helps keep somewhat of a spark of inspiration alive and her being there is somewhat of a motivation for him to keep writing.

My confusion about the song and Terry Crabtree were the only negative things that came out of the film last night.
Everything else… simply blew me away. Seeing the journey the two main characters are taking and wondering what will come out of their friendship as well as wanting to know what happens to them after the story ends.
Yeah, Michael Douglas was amazing in this movie and I could definitely put him on my list of favorite professors protrayed on film.

 

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