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Wonderland poster
February 2006 SITE MAP   SEARCH

cast: Val Kilmer, Josh Lucas, Lisa Kudrow, Kate Bosworth, and Dylan McDermott

director: James Cox

100 minutes (18) 2002
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Prism Leisure DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
John Holmes was the first international porn star, making hundreds of films and bedding thousands of women. But by 1981, he was washed up, broke, and dependent on dubious friends and admirers to feed his drug habit. The only bright spots in his life are his devoted teenage girlfriend Dawn, and his estranged wife Sharon, who struggles to protect Dawn from her husband's exploitation. Then a rumour starts to circulate that John's friends have robbed major criminal Eddie Nash - and the house on Wonderland Avenue where John partied into the night becomes a murder scene.

But what does John - the only link between the two dealers - know? Whom did he betray, and why? As the police, his long-suffering wife Sharon, and Dawn struggle to put the pieces together, John is determined to keep his secrets and manipulate the situation to his own advantage - if he can hang onto his disintegrating sanity that long...

This bleak true-life murder mystery plunges us relentlessly into the world of the addict, a faded Los Angeles of drawn blinds and shabby hotel rooms, where no one's ever sure if it's day or night. At its centre, Val Kilmer's Holmes, a shambling wreck who controls everyone around him with occasional flashes of charm and the fading air of celebrity. He's a man decayed beyond morals, who betrays his friends and even pimps his beloved Dawn in order to keep the drugs rolling in.

It's a fantastic, and extremely brave, performance, but rarely sympathetic - so the human element of the story is provided by the relationship between Kate Bosworth's self-deluding Dawn, and Sharon, an excellent performance from Lisa Kudrow, who seems to have functioned as mother and best friend to the younger woman. (Dawn and Sharon were consultants on Wonderland, but neither is presented as a saint or helpless victim.)

A crime story without a real resolution, a mystery hinted at and never quite solved, this seedy, shocking film is captivating despite the unpleasantness of its subject. Terrific performances and an inventive structure keep you hooked throughout. Highly recommended.

DVD extras: a trailer, director's commentary, and deleted scenes - mostly incidental, but at least one of which sheds light on an important plot point.

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