Peter Eramo Reviews: “Wonderful World” (***)

This one’s a relatively low budget indie film that didn’t get much of a push at all when it was released earlier this year. Matthew Broderick plays Ben Singer, a one-time famous children’s folksinger who has turned into a career pot-smoking proofreader and is miserable living in a world that he has no control over and one in which he cannot relate to. Ben is rude, misanthropic, and pessimistic. He is a poor weekend dad who struggles to relate to his pre-teen daughter (Jodelle Ferland), his ex-wife, his co-workers, and everyone around him. The one person Ben does relate to and can truly call his “friend” is his Senegalese roommate, Ibu (Michael K. Williams). Ibu is Ben’s opposite of course, always seeing the good in everything and trying to give Ben some sound advice during their routine chess matches. When Ibu gets sick and is forced to stay at a hospital, his sister Khadi (Sanaa Lathan) comes all the way from Dafur to help take care of him. She stays at Ben’s and a peculiar relationship ensues.

Josh Goldin has written and directed a sweet, pleasant film and it is nice to see Broderick play such a miserable curmudgeon. Even when he is being insulting or downright offensive, we can still not hate him, but rather root for him to pull himself out of his middle-age funk. The awkward scenes with his daughter are well played and Ferland is a nice find here…a strong actress for her age. The beautiful Lathan is terrific in trying to find the good in Ben and her chemistry with Broderick is convincing. Phillip Baker Hall has a small role as “The Man” who pops up every now and then in Ben’s subconscious to try and teach him life lessons. It always seems to be Ben vs. “The Man” in society and Hall makes for great casting in this part. This theme is brought to fruition during Ben’s seemingly frivolous court case.

I also admired the ending to the film. When Ben goes to Dafur and meets up with Khadi again, it would have been very easy for Goldin to give us what we are expecting and take the easy way out. What Goldin does with his final act is give us a more believable, authentic ending with a glimmer of hope during the nice final shot. The original music by Craig Richey is also quite effective and very nice to listen to. There is nothing spectacular about the film other than the way people react to and communicate with one another. What this film is, is a little gem in the rough – a quirky dark comedy with the proverbial lessons to learn. I enjoyed it – and if you’re looking for something to rent and you’re not in the mood for a meaningless sequel or big budget blockbuster with much glitz than substance, I’d certainly give this one a shot.

Film: A Wonderful World
Year: 2010
Director: Josh Goldin

Rating: *** (out of 4 stars)


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