Waffle Movies

Selection for the weekend of April 9 - 11, 1999

Next Stop Wonderland

As we enter our late twenties and early thirties, those who are unmarried start to question the possibility of finding that special someone we have been waiting for all of our lives. Next Stop Wonderland examines this search for true happiness in the nineties. The movie also uses humor to tackle the weighty issues of loneliness, self-image and our belief in fate, as well as the differences between who we are, who we become to please others, and how others perceive us.

The movie stars Hope Davis as Erin, a 29 year old woman grieving over the loss of her father, her unfulfilling love life and expectations of who she is and what she should want out of life. Hope Davis is destined for Hollywood greatness. She shows great acting ability by portraying an emotional spectrum consisting of desperate, sad, tough, playful and vulnerable. She has had major roles in three movies (Next Stop Wonderland, Daytrippers and The Myth of Fingerprints), and is on the brink of a stellar career. Hopefully, she will be able to continue to land roles that utilize her many talents.

Erin is a night-shift nurse who, much to her mother's chagrin, dropped out of Harvard medical school. She has chosen to drop out of life as well. Her fun, vivacious personality has disappeared as she retreats into a state of emptiness, plagued by a belief that there is no hope for true love, just reliance on self. Two scenes early in the movie give us true insight into Erin.

The first is the opening scene, where her boyfriend Sean, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, tries to dump her by videotape, but the plan is foiled when she comes home early. Sean is an emotional activist who feels Erin is void of passion and decides to leave Boston to pursue his latest cause.  The second scene is a debate between Erin and her friend Cricket, played by Callie Thorne. Cricket clings to the belief that fate is real and controls our destiny. However, Erin disagrees.

Alan Gelfant plays Alan, a 35-year old plumber who decides to chase his dream of becoming a marine biologist. Although he tries to shed his image as a plumber, he is typecast. His friends and family don't understand his dream and his co-workers at the aquarium continue to take advantage of his plumbing abilities instead of his love of marine biology. Much like Erin is trapped by everyone's false expectation of her desire to find a man, Alan is trapped by people's view that he is just a plumber.

Alan and Erin and destined to be together, but will fate step in? Director and co-writer Brad Anderson does a spectacular job of constantly placing Alan and Erin near each other, only to have them experience a series of near misses. After several close encounters, Anderson makes the audience root for a moment of fate that will bring our two stars together. Anderson and writing partner Lyn Vaus have written solid, witty dialogue that provides insight into our main characters. Anderson complements the dialogue by filming scenes that reflect what the characters are seeing and feeling.

The movie's best scenes result when Erin's mother (Holland Taylor) places a personal ad for her daughter in the Boston Herald. Erin decides to stop longing for her boyfriend and weeds out potential suitors from the 64 who have responded to her ad. Anderson puts together a hilarious compilation of losers, liars and deadbeats who have responded to the ad. We watch Erin steadily come to life by toying with the sorry group. Those who misrepresent themselves in an attempt to impress the beautiful Erin are subject to her intellect and cutting sense of humor.

The personal ad is a bust, but Erin meets Andre de Silva (Jose Zuniga) a patient who instantly falls for her. Andre persistently courts Erin until he breaks through the wall she has built around herself. Erin is not quite sure Andre is all he seems to be, but, like other characters, decides that being with someone is better than being alone.

While Erin is being romanced by Andre, Alan is chased by classmate Julie (Cara Buono), a college co-ed who relies on him for notes and tutoring. Alan realizes he is too old for Julie, but decides to invite her on a disastrous whale-sighting trip.

Will Erin dump Andre? Will Alan stop seeing Julie? Will Erin and Alan fall in love? You'll have to see the movie to find out. Unfortunately, the movie would be better if the answer to that question came much earlier in the plot, but it well worth the rental price. Claudio Ragazzi provides a bossa nova driven score that establishes a relaxed feel and Anderson tackles personal subject matter with a touch of levity.

Like many movies reviewed at www.wafflemovies.com, Next Stop Wonderland is an independent film that didn't have a wide release or a big advertising push. It was well-received when it premiered at the Sundance Film festival, but was lost in a crowded field when it debuted late in August of 1998, never a great time to release a romantic comedy.

That is unfortunate because you will recognize close friends and yourself in these characters. Hopefully, the movie will find a new audience in the rental market. Take a chance and you will like what you see.

Grade: B+

Next Stop Wonderland

Director: Brad Anderson

Writers: Brad Anderson and Lyn Vaus


Erin …………………………. Hope Davis

Alan ………………………… Alan Gelfant

Cricket ……………………… Callie Thorne

Mother ……………………… Holland Taylor

Sean …………………………. Phillip Seymour Hoffman

Julie …………………………. Cara Buono

Andre de Silva ………………. Jose Zuniga

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