Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Michael Winterbottom's "Wonderland" tells the story of three sisters in South London, each lonely in her own way, and of their husbands, parents, blind dates, neighbors and children, all lonely too, during four rainy days in November. You seek in this movie someone who is doing it right, who has found happiness, and all you come up with is the grown son who ran away from it all. Does that mean these people are unusual? Not at all. Most people are not terrifically happy most of the time. That's why, according to this movie, they invented booze, professional sports, television, hairdressing and sex.
I saw this film at about the same time I took a fresh look at "Nashville" (1975), Robert Altman's film of interlocking lives. Altman has often ventured into these constructions, where you find out gradually how the characters are related; think also of his "Short Cuts" and "The Player," and of two Paul Thomas Anderson films influenced by him, "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia." While most plots march from the beginning to the end of a film, these kinds of films move in circles, suggesting that life is not a story but a process. They're more true to life. Reality isn't a march toward a happy ending, but a long series of small and hopeful sideways moves toward dimly sensed goals.
Why do I feel touched by "Wonderland" and other films like it? Because these films are about themselves and not about me. The real subject of most conventional films, especially the summer special effects pictures, is me--how they make me feel, how they shock me, how they scare me, how I feel during the chase scenes. There is nothing to be discovered about human nature in them. A movie like "Wonderland," however, is about them--about people I am not and will never be, but who are all around me in the city, and share this time and society. F/X pictures come out of the screen at me. Movies like "Wonderland" invite me into the screen with them. I am curious. I begin to care.
The sisters in "Wonderland" are Nadia (Gina McKee), Molly (Molly Parker) and Debbie (Shirley Henderson). Nadia works in a Soho cafe and answers singles ads. Molly is pregnant, and living with Eddie (John Simm), who sells small appliances, has very low self-esteem and painfully rehearses how he will tell her he has quit his job. Debbie is a hairdresser, who has a young son by Dan (Ian Hart).