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Grady Tripp, the one-time wonder boy and darling of the literati whose unfinished novel has been growing and metastasizing for years. He's having no trouble writing the novel. He's just terrified of finishing it, afraid that it will fail to live up to his earlier masterpiece and prove that he's a has-been unworthy of his status as a cultural icon.
PROFANITY: Frequent, sometimes extreme. SEX/NUDITY: No nudity or graphic sex, but numerous sexual references. VIOLENCE: Dog attack. DRUGS/ALCOHOL: Frequent, extreme drinking and dope smoking. ACTION: COMEDY: Mostly offbeat.
Wonder Boys uses a standard premise - the older, wiser father figure who both teaches and learns from his protégé - as a starting-off point. While it's true that familiarity can breed contempt, and too many movies of this sort veer into overly-sentimental melodrama, Wonder Boys manages to keep audiences involved despite its less-than-original underlying idea. There are two obvious reasons for this. The first is tone - the film successfully shifts from comedy to poignancy without the awkwardness that often mars such transitions, and it never goes overboard in either category. The second is characters. The men and women inhabiting this film feel like real people, not recycled caricatures from other, similar motion pictures.
An unfinished novel, a stolen car, a murdered pet, an unstable student, a fed up wife, a pregnant lover -- it's safe to say that Grady Tripp has a number of issues to deal with this weekend. Grady is a 50-ish English professor who hasn't had a thing published in years - not since he wrote his award winning Great American novel 7 years ago. It's hardly surprising, then, that his college's annual literary festival fills the former wonder boy with more than his usual quota of self doubt and anxiety. This festival weekend, however, proves even worse than he could have imagined as he finds himself reeling from one misadventure to another in the company of a new wonder boy, James Leer. He's Grady's most gifted writing student. He's also a fluent liar whose peculiar behavior launches the professor on a picaresque odyssey of self discovery.