Tuesday 17 October 2023

REVIEW: The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (2023) - Starring Benedict Cumberbatch

Review by Jon Donnis
"The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar," a 2023 American fantasy short film directed and co-produced by Wes Anderson, presents a delightful fusion of Anderson's distinctive directorial style and the magical storytelling of Roald Dahl. Based on Dahl's 1977 short story, the film holds true to Anderson's unique visual inventiveness while introducing an original presentation rarely seen in the world of cinema.

The plot centers around Henry Sugar, a wealthy bachelor who funds his gambling habits with his inheritance. Discovering the tale of Imdad Khan, a man with remarkable sight, Henry learns to harness his abilities to read playing cards. He embarks on a philanthropic journey, utilizing his newfound powers to establish charitable ventures worldwide. The film masterfully portrays Henry's extraordinary journey, culminating in a poignant end that blends magic and mortality.

Benedict Cumberbatch shines as the titular Henry Sugar, effectively capturing the character's transformation. Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley, Richard Ayoade, and David Gant deliver solid performances in their respective roles, complementing the film's magical atmosphere.

Anderson's return to Dahl's world showcases how seamlessly his idiosyncratic filmmaking blends with Dahl's enchanting narrative. The director infuses his signature quirkiness, creating a captivating world that pays homage to Dahl's unique charm.

The film stands out for its remarkable visual creativity, exemplifying Anderson's mastery in creating whimsical and visually stunning scenes that transport the audience into a surreal, magical realm. The aesthetic choices and attention to detail add to the film's enchanting appeal.

"The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar" impresses with its originality, presenting a narrative format that feels refreshingly new in the cinematic landscape. The film unfolds in a manner that keeps the audience engaged and eager to unravel the story, showcasing Anderson's innovative storytelling techniques.

But not everything is good, sometimes the actors seem to be reciting lines directly from the book, which hampers the immersion into the characters and the story. Adding a personal touch to the characters, beyond the source material, could have elevated the performances and made them more engaging.

Some of the dialogues in the film are delivered too rapidly, making it challenging for the audience to fully grasp the intricacies of the story. A more measured pace in the delivery would have allowed for a smoother viewing experience and enhanced comprehension.

While the film boasts creativity and innovation, the limited budget might disappoint viewers seeking a grander production. Certain aspects could have been more expansive to elevate the film's overall impact.

In summary, "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar" is a charming and visually inventive film that successfully brings Dahl's enchanting tale to life, although some performance and pacing issues slightly hinder its potential. With its distinctive style and imaginative storytelling, the film earns a respectable 7 out of 10..

Out Now on Netflix, but you should really get the book as it is much better.