Sunday, July 23, 2006


Hope DavisNext Stop Wonderland movie Directed by Brad Anderson
Starring Hope Davis
Reviewed by Byron Merritt



Hope Davis has become what I like to call a hidden success. Her movies don’t make a gazillion dollars at the box office and you’d probably hardly notice her if she passed you on the street. But what she does — and does well — is create lovable and memorable characters on celluloid. Most recently she was paired with Greg Kinnear in THE MATADOR, a role in which her underused talents still shone brightly with every scene she appeared.

I decided to watch NEXT STOP WONDERLAND for the sole purpose of checking to see how well Mrs. Davis stood as an actress in a starring role. I wasn’t disappointed.

The story is that of a nurse named Erin (Davis) who comes home one day to find her boyfriend, Sean (Philip Seymour Hoffman, CAPOTE) moving out. Angry and spiteful, Erin quickly decides that being alone is okay. In fact, she firmly entrenches the philosophy of aloneness within herself ...until...

Erin’s domineering mother, Piper (Holland Taylor, THE TRUMAN SHOW), discovers her daughter’s recent break-up and places a personals ad in the newspaper for her. Initially upset by this, Erin eventually decides to take on the task of dismissing all of the loathsome men who try to court her. The comedy here is striking and philosophical as the men do whatever they can to get into her pants only to be rebuffed by Erin’s formidable intellect.

On the other side of Boston (where this story takes place) we find Alan Monteiro (Alan Gelfant, TURN OF FAITH), a plumber turned marine biologist who volunteers at the local aquarium. He’s struggling with debt, school (still working on his biology degree), and an aggressive younger classman who’s infatuated with him. Strangely enough, too, is the fact that his brother is one of the guy’s trying to bed Erin via the personals ad.

As Erin and Alan mingle within their own circles, they come close to orbiting one another but never quite make contact. Brief glances, telephone calls that pass them by, invitations to the same restaurant parties, the two seemed destined to fall into one another’s arms ...yet these encounters slip past. It’s wonderfully frustrating to watch, and these "almost encounters" are never forced.

But in the end, director
Brad Anderson doesn’t let us down. Serendipity intervenes and the two strangers end up hugging one another on a transit train after a strange set of circumstances pulls them together.

Romantic comedies are okay if done right. You know the type that kind of make you feel, eh, just okay; You’ve Got Mail, Pretty Woman, Sleepless In Seattle. But this flick gives you more for less. Made as an independent film on a $1 million budget, Hope Davis’ excellent acting and the perfect script make for some thought-provoking and downright funny moments. While those other RomComs I mentioned have a basic "feel-good" to them, NEXT STOP WONDERLAND has much more. The philosophy, romance, and comedy all build to a very satisfying conclusion and one that will invite discussions about the probabilities of fate versus happenstance.

No movie trailer available. Soooorrrry!


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