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2 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Wonderland (2000)
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by iF Magazine

"Wonderland has a tone of sympathetic amusement about it."
4 stars

Followers of director Michael Winterbottom's career will observe that WONDERLAND sounds a note of cautious cheer in the filmmaker's canon. Much of Winterbottom's work so far has been fairly bleak, including features such as GO NOW (debilitating disease), WELCOME TO SARAJEVO (the war in Bosnia), JUDE (child-on-child murder and general misery) and BUTTERFLY KISS (a little-seen drama that is arguably one of the most depressing movies ever made about a female serial killer in the north of England).

WONDERLAND is not precisely a laugh riot, but its characters are neither suicidal nor homicidal (although one does kill an animal). Overall, it has a tone of quizzical, sympathetic amusement.

The title of WONDERLAND refers to a state of mind, an amusement park and to London, where all of the action takes place over the course of a few days. Molly (Molly Parker), Nadia (Gina McKee) and Debbie (Shirley Henderson) are sisters, dealing in very different ways with romance and its consequences. Molly is happily married to Eddie (John Simm) and expecting their first child momentarily. Nadia, desperate to find Mr. Right, embarks before our eyes on a series of dates arranged through the personals. Debbie (Shirley Henderson), who is separated from her little boy's feckless father Dan (Ian Hart), goes in for casual sex. The marriage of the the siblings' parents, Eileen (Kika Markham) and Bill (Jack Shepherd), isn't a helpful model, as the aging couple are steadily driving one another crazy.

The screenplay by Laurence Coriat succeeds in creating a sense of interconnected events, although much of WONDERLAND is fairly episodic by conventional standards. Likewise, Winterbottom brings a sense of actual suspense to many sequences, keeping us wondering (yet another pun on the title?) how each interaction will turn out. The cast is extremely well-chosen. Markham, McKee and Parker particularly look as though they could indeed be each other's close relatives. All of the actors have down-to-earth skills and conviction that make the dialogue sound continuously natural and the situations feel credible.

WONDERLAND is also wonderfully atmospheric. Those who love London will feel transported and those who've never been there will get a good sense of what it's like. (Those who've been to London and don't like it are in for a long haul with the ambience.) However, once we've grasped the overall interpersonal dynamics on display, WONDERLAND slows down.

The ways in which the sisters and their friends and family repeat awkward patterns are true to life, but once we've accepted the verisimilitude of the depiction, we feel even more caught up in the rut than the characters do. A scene of sisterly insensitivity is so off-putting that we stop especially wanting to see some of these people interact with each other. We wish them well and we want them to learn how to be happy, but by the end of WONDERLAND, we rather wish that most of them would do it more quickly or on someone else's watch.-- Abbie Bernstein

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originally posted: 02/23/01 14:20:55
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User Comments

9/06/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble movie tried to hard to be cool. DVD extra Documentary is way better. 3 stars
10/06/02 Juan Luis What kind of readers do you have? Do they love cinema? Is a great movie!!! 5 stars
8/03/00 Heather Interesting slice of life, a good look at London 4 stars
5/08/00 michael totally agree with you there matt 1 stars
5/04/00 matt this was the worst waste 2 hours of my life DONT SEE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
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  28-Jul-2000 (R)


  04-May-2000 (M)

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