When the first trailer came out for Wonka, the collective reactions weren’t so positive. I’m happy to say the movie is good – not quite at the level of Paul King’s own Paddington 2 – but there’s a bunch of good performances and it’s the perfect movie to enjoy this Christmas season.
Willy Wonka (Timothée Chalamet) is a dreamer. He’s travelled all across the world gathering fantastical ingredients, all so that he could sell chocolate at the Gallery Gourmet. According to his dear mum, it’s the place to be when it comes to chocolate, basically home to the world’s finest chocolatiers. Willy arrives and becomes broke almost immediately – not used to the hustle culture of the space – and gets trapped by Mrs. Scrubbit (Olivia Colman) into servitude because of his gullible nature. To make matters worse, there’s also a chocolate cartel of sorts, so every time he tries to sell his chocolate to the masses, he is taken to task by the police. But with the help of his partner in crime Noodle (Calah Lane), and a whole host of fellow captives, maybe they can work together to make his dream come true.
The news of Chalamet’s casting was perplexing to say the least, but he does great in the role, especially with the physicality of the character. I would say that maybe he’s a bit too charming for a character who’s supposed to be pretty eccentric and weird, but it’s plausible that this would have been how Willy used to be before the ways of the world made him a recluse. Chalamet has good chemistry with Lane, and the friendship between their characters is really the centre of the film. Colman’s Mrs. Scrubbit is practically a Roald Dahl character come to life, and her scenes with Tom Davies’ Bleacher are laugh out loud hilarious. It’s not easy to commit to being loud and obnoxious, but the pair do great work.
But the ultimate scene stealer is Sally Hawkins as Willy’s mother. She appears for basically two scenes yet manages to be the most affecting part of this movie. The Flash attempted something similar, but never achieves the emotional pay-off Wonka is able to bring across.
The musical set pieces are well choreographed and entertaining, and the fantastical set design does justice to the wacky and beautiful creations Willy is capable of. I’m not as enamoured with Hugh Grant’s Oompa Loompa as I expected to be. He brought what was necessary to the part, but it’s definitely not on the level of what he does in Paddington 2 or even Dungeons and Dragons: Honour Among Thieves.
In a society where we sometimes consume food mindlessly – maybe as we multitask on our various devices – watching this movie reminded me of how important it is to be present with meals and food, so we can really enjoy what goes from our plates to our mouths. Recently, my husband and I went to this French restaurant for our anniversary, and enjoyed each scrumptious bite of the food we ordered. But maybe the food was good because we shared that experience with each other.
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It is Timothée Chalamet's earnest and quirky performance as the young Willy Wonka that is truly the beating heart of this film. The leading man charms his way through the film, with a song on his breath and a pep in his step.
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