Wonderland (1999) from Scoopy Jr

The movie...
If you go by the IMDb, this is genius film making by Michael Winterbottom (the director of the Kate Winslet movie "Jude"). However, I'm still trying to figure out if the IMDb readers saw the same movie I did!

The plot...
There really isn't one. It's one of those "slice of life" movies where we follow (literally with a shaky hand held camera) the lives of a group of very depressed, and dysfunctional people over a period of 4 days. The people are 3 sisters and the men in their lives, the parents of the sisters, a neighbor and her son, and some guy (who I think was the brother of the sisters) and his girlfriend.

Sound confusing? Just wait....

All of these characters are introduced individually in the first 20 minutes of the movie. That's a new character about every 3 minutes! When a new character is introduced, you do not know exactly who he/she is or how they fit into plot at first. Are they a relative or just a guy in a coffee shop? You have to watch for a while and see. I figured out how most of the characters fit eventually, but not all of them. In fact some characters serve no purpose whatsoever and simply waste screen time with over- or under- acting.

I guess the reason to watch this is as a character piece. I admit that most of the pieces were good. Saplings of complicated characters waiting to be nurtured on film. But by throwing so many people into the mix, no one character could ever develop. What is left was a stew of good ideas, but no real flavor. In the end, we the audience are left watching 7 or 8 depressed people for 100 minutes, and since we only see that side of these people, who cares.


Sarah-Jane Potts (Yanks know this UK actress from "Felicity") shows off a great body in her completely pointless role. Plenty of breast exposure, plus bare bum and pubes.

The film...
Cinema verité. Or as I like to call it, pretentious crap. In each scene, Winterbottom used one, jerky hand held camera as he walked along side, walked around and sat and stood with the actors. Camera work that in some cases made me crave the long, slow and smooth tracking shots of the Blair Witch Project. Seriously, an 8 year old with a Sony could probably make a better looking movie.

The movie is purposely grainy as hell and was shot using only natural lighting. Sadly there is also natural sound. Basically they just took the cam-corder into the bars, apartments, and coffee shops and just hit record. So you have all of the ambient noise of real life. Also, from the looks of the people in the crowd scenes, I'm not so sure they knew a movie was being made. There are several people who just sit in the background and stare at the camera.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen

  • no meaningful features

Now for the sake of symbolism, the graininess, occasionally poor sound, and crappy lighting do have a purpose. Essentially, the film technique is intended to correspond with the characters. Like I said there are some good ideas at work here. But overall, having too many people in front of the camera just mucks it all up.

Would I recommend it? Only if you think Ingmar Bergman movies are a little too bright and cheerful.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and three quarters stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4, Apollo 71/100, filmcritic.com 2.5/5

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDB readers say 7.2/10, Apollo voters 55/100.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

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