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NEXT STOP WONDERLAND

SYNOPSIS:
When her dyed-in-the-wool environmental activist boyfriend unceremoniously dumps her, nightshift nurse Erin Castleton (Hope Davis) is furious to learn that her widowed mother has taken out a lonely hearts ad on her behalf in a local newspaper. Surprised to find the ad has generated a huge response, Erin decides to check out some of the would-be suitors face to face. Meanwhile, across town at the Boston aquarium, Alan Monteiro (Alan Gelfant) is ekeing out an existence working as a plumber and studying marine biology at night. A loan shark he owes money to is also not making his life any easier. Though neither is aware of the other's existence, fate ensures that Erin and Alan's path finally intersect.

"If anything, Next Stop Wonderland offers further proof that light romantic comedies, particularly those focusing on lovelorn twentysomethings looking for emotional fulfillment in a big city, have become the staple diet of the low budget independent eature. In his second outing as writer director, Brad Anderson has deftly reworked the genre's more familiar conventions to reinforce the notion that when it comes to true love, it's fate which ultimately holds the deciding vote. Though it's equally adept at skewering the male ego as it is in redefining the cynical nature nature of the contemporary dating game, the film, thanks to Hope Davis' wonderful central performance, remains grounded in the kind of incongruous humour and humanism that is impossible to resist. And while Alan Gelfant may not necessarily conform to everyone's accepted image of a handsome leading man, the actor's self-effacing ordinariness is, in fact, one of the film's biggest pluses. Supported by a terrific ensemble cast, including an hilarious turn from Philip Seymour Hoffman as Erin's ex-boyfriend, Next Stop Wonderland is one of those unheralded little gems which any discerning moviegoer (or closet romantic, for that matter) would be foolish to miss. Recommended."
Leo Cameron

"You know how sometimes there’s a place, a feeling, a smell or a memory that means a lot to you - and then a movie comes along and just captures it? Well, for me, Next Stop Wonderland caught one of those "something specials". So if my view of it is a little rose-coloured, please forgive me. Director Brad Anderson made a wonderful (but sadly little seen) film a few years ago called The Darien Gap. Next Stop Wonderland sees him move to a higher level, with an obviously bigger budget and a stronger cast. Anderson has made a film that could be considered a rarity these days - one about real people with real problems, but which also manages to find the humour in the characters and their situations. It’s the kind of film Frank Capra might have made if Frank Capra lived in Boston in the 1990’s. While the script has some superb observational dialogue, the film’s real strength is in its characters. For once, we’re not short-changed with clichés and easy outs. These characters are allowed to actually develop as the story unfolds. It’s worth the price of admission to just witness the intelligence of the screenplay. Also worth the price of admission is the radiant and talented Hope Davis as Erin. She gives a marvellously subtle performance which really carries the film. Oh, and then there’s the beautiful bossa nova soundtrack. Next Stop Wonderland is one of those small gems that’s uncovered only so often. Make sure you see this one - and I hope it can capture something for you too."
David Edwards

"Romantic comedy is currently a genre to avoid, and this low-budget example is annoying in all the usual ways. Call it the Ally McBeal syndrome: although the main character is supposedly a modern, independent woman, virtually the whole film is about her desperate search for Mr Right. As you’d expect, there are lots of zany subplots and jokes about modern dating rituals; comparable local productions like Love And Other Catastrophes use the same grainy handheld style and references to fate and coincidence, hackneyed gestures that signal vague ‘art film’ ambitions. The main reason to see this is Hope Davis, a presence as complex and radiant as one of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s heroines – both fragile and tough, with a wry self-sufficiency keeping her emotions in check, as if she’s too used to disappointment to trust anyone with her dreams. Writer-director Brad Anderson has little skill with comedy or storytelling, but his lyrical instincts are often right on target: Erin’s wan, prickly beauty is ideally matched with the wintry, old-world-industrial Boston locations. Another layer of yearning is added by the bossa nova soundtrack, its buoyant dance rhythms played off against the flatter rhythms of ordinary life, of travelling back and forth to work each day, jostled by passengers in a crowded train. There’s something very modern about this blend of romantic longing and self-protective cynicism. Along with Erin, the film judges people according to some neurotic standard of authenticity: most of the secondary characters (from Erin’s political-activist boyfriend to a seductive bimbo in Alan’s biology class) are revealed as losers or superficial phonies who can be treated with contempt. This brittle, conceited point-of-view is one reason the film isn’t all that likeable, but the sadness underneath might stay with you regardless."
Jake Wilson

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

NEXT STOP WONDERLAND (M)
(US)

CAST: Hope Davis, Alan Gelfant, Victor Argo, Cara Buono, Holland Taylor, José

Zúñiga, Robert Klein

DIRECTOR: Brad Anderson

PRODUCER: Mitchell Robbins

SCRIPT: Brad Anderson, Lyn Vaus

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Uta Briesewitz

EDITOR: Brad Anderson

MUSIC: Claudio Ragazzi

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Chad Detweiller

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: November 25, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: February 1, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow







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