The Movie Binge

Review: The Great New Wonderful


I guess it's okay to have a movie about 9/11 now. We had United 93 released a couple months ago and World Trade Center is coming out on August 9th, which is on top of the documentaries and TV movies out there. Personally, I'm okay with all this as everyone has their grieving process and no film has made a mockery of the painful day, yet.

Okay, I won't leave you hanging long at all. The Great New Wonderful is a good film and honors the spirit of New Yorkers in the months and years after 9/11. The story follows several different New Yorkers and never mentions the terrorist attack directly; instead we watch as the characters break down and build themselves back up again. The five stories focus on the white middle and upper class, but are varied enough to avert potential boredom. The tales range from two hard-nosed cake decorators (Maggie Gyllenhaal and Edie Falco) battling for an elite client and an elderly couple struggling with the monotony of growing old together. Each story was distinct and addressed how a major event in one's life can alter your universe and force you to think or act differently.

While it could have been cheesy, it wasn't. The score was tasteful, the editing style was subdued and the only visual cues were shots of planes crossing the sky. The filmmakers did an excellent job of getting out of the way of the story.

What I enjoyed most was the sense of impending doom throughout the film. As these planes crossed the sky intermittently and the the tension rose in each of the scenes, I grew anxious. It felt as if something major would happen, but it never did. For me, that's how much of life after 9/11 has felt. There have been times where the fear of an unknown, future terror attack have raised blood pressures and The Great New Wonderful captured that. The prevailing theme was that time is not to be wasted so don't wait for life to happen to you.

Clearly, the moral was far from groundbreaking but I enjoyed seeing it in this context. With the fear and doom of the other two 9/11 films released this year I'm thankful for a film that paints another picture. While thinking about what happened on one of the flights or at one of the towers is a worthy exercise, very few New Yorkers experienced that. Our lack of knowing may give validation to those efforts, but there is a place for a film like The Great New Wonderful in our history and Danny Leiner, the director the film, did a fine job telling the story.