Director: Brad Anderson
Brad Anderson's quirky romance was not only nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance but the heartfelt indie with a million dollar budget caused an all-out bidding war until Miramax proved victorious, purchasing Next Stop Wonderland for six million dollars. Hope Davis is great as Erin, a dedicated Registered Nurse who-- after being dumped for the umpteenth time by her flighty hippie boyfriend Phillip Seymour Hoffman-- finds herself in dating hell when her overbearing mother Holland Taylor (director Anderson’s aunt) places a personal ad in a local Boston paper that causes sixty-four responses, resulting in disastrous meet-ups to which all singles can relate. Meanwhile, viewers are introduced to a parallel storyline and hero in Alan Gelfant as an ex-plumber with dreams of becoming an assistant aquarist who keeps missing Davis by fractions of seconds and although the viewers know who is going to end up together, getting there is half the fun. Funny and wild— Wonderland is a wonderful precursor to Anderson’s superior follow-up romantic comedy fantasy that also deals with fate, Happy Accidents. Although the film earned the Audience Award and Grand Special Prize at the Deauville Film Festival, the film’s ending was reworked at the last moment in order to discredit one character and help retain viewer sympathy for Davis’s Erin (inspired by an actual acquaintance of Anderson) who up until the film’s change had formerly left a slightly cool impression on viewers. Bowdoin College graduate Brad Anderson (who later taught filmmaking classes at Boston’s Film and Video Foundation), clearly respects his audience’s capacity to take in the subtle tongue-in-cheek jokes that play better on a second viewing, especially as personified by Hoffman’s character Sean who in breaking up with his girlfriend Erin, leaves her a videotape filled with his reasons but ultimately opts to leave with the VCR. While not as successful as a complete work as the frothy and inviting Happy Accidents, Next Stop Wonderland makes a good choice for a nice romantic rainy evening in. Above all, the sophisticated and unique movie is intelligent and should appeal to fans of Sliding Doors.