John Holmes – porn star, pimp, coke fiend, loser – was a creep. Does this surprise you?
“Wonderland,” which dramatizes the aftermath of a Holmes drug deal gone homicidally bad, has some great visuals. It never met a scene it didn’t want to cut into multiple screens while shifting from black-and-white to color and zooming into places where even a coke spoon can’t go.
But a movie this grim and humorless about a character this unpleasant (the nicest thing you can say about Holmes is that he waits politely until his friends offer him their stash) works only if it has some insight into the character or something to say about why people make the mistakes they make.
“Wonderland,” a scuzzy, dirt-under-the-fingernails movie, has neither.
What it does have, principally, is a smartly buttoned-down performance by Lisa Kudrow as Holmes’ wife, Sharon, who disassociated herself from him romantically after he began his career but remained the only person in his life he could trust. Weirdly, Sharon also lends a hand to Holmes’ teenaged, tweaked-up girlfriend, and the two of them develop a puzzling friendship that is the movie’s overlooked, unexplored asset.
You can see what director James Cox hoped “Wonderland” would be: a “Raging Bull”-style exploration of a guy with potential whose life took a disastrous turn. But Cox is too jazzed by his lurid, “JFK”-influenced camera style and storytelling (we get four versions of what may have happened the night a drug deal led to four murders) to worry about what makes the people tick (and tic).
I mean, we get that Holmes (Val Kilmer) used to be a straight arrow and then he became a mess, but why bother making a movie about that if you’re not going to try to suggest what happened?
Directed by: James Cox
Starring: Val Kilmer, Lisa Kudrow, Kate Bosworth
Rated: R, for gruesome violence, graphic drug use, profane language and brief nudity (no, we don’t see It).
Should you go? If you’re a Lisa Kudrow nut, sure. Otherwise, no.