** ½ (out of 4)
When it comes to success, the children’s author Brian Selznick has had it pretty darn good. His most recent half-written-half-illustrated novels (The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck, The Marvels) have not only all been award-winning bestsellers: they’ve also caught the eye of some of the movie world’s biggest directors, who’ve justly viewed Selznick’s frame-by-frame illustrations as ripe material for adaptation. Six years ago, Martin Scorsese was the first to take the bait, turning The Invention of Hugo Cabret into an evocative (albeit occasionally cloying) celebration of the silent era. Now, Todd Haynes, the genre-bending director of works like Poison, Far from Heaven, and Carol, has taken up the task of adapting Wonderstruck – a novel featuring two parallel storylines about a deaf boy named Ben (Oakes Fegley) and a deaf girl named Rose (Millicent Simmonds) who live 50 years apart.
Unfortunately, if Hugo was defined by an invigorating sense of joy, Haynes’ take on Selznick turns out to embody the opposite: unremitting clunkiness. And the main reason for this stems from the fact that Selznick’s script emulates the original novel’s structure to a fault.