Wonderlus (2018)
Wonderlus (2018)

Genre: Romantic Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.

Release Date: April 6th, 2018 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Johan Cronje Actors: Mila Guy, Edwin van der Walt, Lea Vivier, Stiaan Smith, Simone Nortmann, Francois Jacobs, Beer Adriaanse, Elma Postma, Ansu Visser, Lynelle Kenned, Adam Heyns

 


 

E

xtremely dramatic, operatic music narrates a scene of a wrecked honeymoon suite with naked people scattered across the bed, a couple inside a parked car, and a man unconscious on a dining table in a banquet hall. Cleverly, the man in the vehicle shuts off the radio, which is the source of the choir music. Unfortunately, the cleverness ceases there – and never picks up again. Ruan (Stiaan Smith) and Lindie (Simone Nortmann) are a different twosome in a different bedroom, with the former suffering from a killer hangover and the latter upset at things that were said and done the previous night. The problem is that none of these various wedding guests can remember all the details – except that the booze-soaked party was fun.

It’s up to Gerrie (Adam Heyns), the sensible one, and Lukas (Beer Adriaanse), the irresponsible one, to sort out the events, beginning with what happened to Pietie (Edwin van der Walt) – the one upside down in the bed, sleeping next to an unknown woman. As the film flashes back to the day before, it’s revealed that the woman in the bed is one of the kitchen staff members (Lea Vivier) – and not the bride (Mila Guy), whom Pietie married. And that bride (remaining oddly unnamed throughout the film – the same as the waitress), awakes in a stranger’s car, in the middle of a field of sunflowers.

The setup is conspicuously similar to “The Hangover,” except that where there should be obvious comedy, there is instead a distinct melancholy, almost as if the inherently silly circumstances are meant to depict a sad realism. In fact, when Gerrie and Lukas drive to the wedding venue (a farm), they lament over the speed in which time passes, and the friends they keep losing to the “trap” of marriage. They’re not young anymore – and settling down is the final stage of domestication and abandoning their wild sides. In another twist, which should be entirely comedic, Lukas is three weeks into a vow of abstinence – yet this is just another detail that provides seriousness, not slapstick.

When participants aren’t somberly reminiscing about the past, as if they’re all about to die of old age, the bride and groom fret over whether or not everything will be okay. And adding to this sullenness are downbeat songs and montages that foreshadow marital disasters – particularly the infidelities that took place in the opening moments. In between, characters down shots, sip punch, smoke weed, flirt, dance, and drink some more. The movie might as well be an advertisement for reckless partying.

Another problem arises with the structuring of the picture. It’s supposed to be a bit of a mystery, slowly resolved through flashbacks. But the decision to cut back and forth abruptly between time periods – of which there are four (arriving to the wedding, the reception, the aftermath, and the morning after) – makes things quizzically difficult to sort out. And that shouldn’t be a concern in this type of relationship melodrama. Sadly, it hardly matters; as the film winds down to its close, with characters hooking up, breaking up, saying embarrassing or emotional things while outrageously drunk, and arguing incessantly, “Wonderlus” becomes just another generic relationship yarn, offering nothing new to a tired formula. Plus, it’s overlong, it’s unfittingly dour, and it trails off irresolutely, as if desperately hoping to be a scholarly piece that critics will muse over in the years to come.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10