Directed by: James Cox
Starring: Val Kilmer, Kate Bosworth, Tim Blake Nelson, Lisa Kudrow
Of the many kinds of films that filmmakers set out to create, the art of constructing one that is genuinely “cool” is a not so easy task. Tarrantino figured it out, as did Jim Jarmusch , Gus Vant Zant, and Todd Haynes, along with relative newcomers Doug Limon, P.T. Anderson, and Darren Aronofsky. But to make the modern hipster classic you need everything to work – music, wardrobe, cast, editing, cinematography and subject. Another piece of cultural flotsam that has finally become nearly mainstream cool is porn, or at least porn celebrities: Ron Jeremy, Jenna Jamison, and who could forget John C. Holmes – the king of cool among other things.
In James Cox gritty and largely solid but barely seen film “Wonderland” he conquers both the cool of the time (1981) by chronicling the demise of the great Johnny Wadd as he reaches the nadir implicated in the brutal Wonderland killings. The film is awash in the sex, drugs, murder, in and around the seedy LA underground. Kilmer puts up another spot-on performance as a tweaked-out coke fiend looking to set up one last score.
There are quite a few holes in “Wonderland,” but you have to give credit to the ambiguous look at Holmes himself as both a washed up junkie with nothing left to offer, and also as a living legend with two women still very much in love with him. The film is filled with violence, as most drug films are, but also with a kind of weird and frantic sense of humor. Edited and time-warped from the splintered perspective of a basehead the film starts and stops in an oddly natural way with soundtrack that edges it nicely along. Somewhere between “Drugstore Cowboy” and “Boogie Nights” the film finds a kind of whacked out center, dusted with cameo’s by everyone from Tim Blake Nelson and Lisa Kudrow to Eric Bogosian and Jeneane Garofalo. It’d be hard to not enjoy this film, but then again not everyone is able to grasp onto a little slice of cool.