(director: Todd Haynes; screenwriter: novel by Brian Selnick/Selnick; cinematographer: Ed Lachman; editor: Affonso Gonçalves; music: Carter Burwell; cast: Oakes Fegley (Ben), Julianne Moore (Lillian Mayhew/Rose), Millicent Simmonds (Rose), Michelle Williams (Elaine), Jadan Michael (Jamie), Carey Michael Smith (Young Walter), Tom Noonan (Old Walter), James Urbaniak (Dr. Kincaid, Rose’s Father ), Amy Hargreaves (Aunt Jenny); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Pamela Koffler, John Sloss, Christine Vachon. Executive producer: Brian Bell; Amazon Studio; 2017)
“This is the only film by Haynes I didn’t care for.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The ambitious movie with a gimmicky poetic conceit by Todd Haynes (“Safe”/”Poison”) is based on the 2011 novel by Brian Selnick, who also adapts the screenplay. It follows the 12-year-old Ben (Oakes Fegley) and the 12-year-old Rose (Millicent Simmonds), whose stories are told in parallel episodes 50 years apart. His is filmed in color from the NYC of 1977, while hers is in black-and-white from the New York City of 1927. Both have run away to the city to look for answers about one of their parents in the hope of changing their dreary lives.It opens with a quote from Oscar Wilde: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”.In 1927 in Hoboken, New Jersey, the born deaf and poor Rose lives with her strict father (James Urbaniak). She loves the silent movies and believes her screen idol Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore), who is now starring on Broadway, is her mother.In 1977 in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, Ben mourns the death of his single mother, a librarian named Elaine (Michelle Williams), when he finds an old bookmark from Kincaid Books in Manhattan with the note, “Elaine, I’ll wait for you. Love, Danny.” Just then, he’s struck by lightning, which leaves him deaf. Nevertheless he’s obsessed to find the man who may be his father and ventures off to the city.The story veers back and forth between the children who are each on a discovery mission in the city. Things connect when they each find their way to the American Museum of Natural History, where Ben meets the roguish Jamie (Jaden Michael), who becomes his friend, while Rose finds her older brother Walter (Cary Michael Smith) and is disappointed when she meets her screen idol.Of note, newcomer Millicent Simmonds is deaf in real life and the kid who plays deaf in the film, Oakes Fegley, is not.The childhood fantasy film never catches on emotionally and remains mostly inert. This is the only film by Haynes I didn’t care for.
REVIEWED ON 12/30/2017 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/