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Wonderland

Year: 2003
Director: James Cox
Writer: James Cox
Cast: Val Kilmer, Kate Bosworth, Dylan McDermott, Josh Lucas, Eric Bosogian, Lisa Kudrow, Christina Applegate, Carrie Fisher, Janeane Garofalo, M C Gainey
Comparions to Boogie Nights are inevitable, not just because it's another story in the fabled life of porn legend John Holmes, but because of the heavily stylised cinematography and true to life kitsch style of the era.

The strong visual portrayal of the trappings of early 1980s life in Los Angeles also heighten the sense of Wonderland being a parable for the shift in tone in the trashy Hollywood world. The innocence of the seventies are over. Grass was a sociable, mostly harmless drug and not many dealers had blood on their hands. Cocaine was pouring into the coffers of the party set, bringing violence with it.

Video was coming to decimate the porn industry and AIDS was coming to decimate the freewheeling sexuality of the previous decade. By way of a parallel, Holmes hadn't made a skin flick in two years and was reduced to hanging around a bunch of low life drug pushers. In fact, it's surprising to learn once the movie's over that his legendary endowment had nothing to do with the story.

Whereas Boogie Nights dealt with his rise, Wonderland tells the story of the last days of his legend and the part if played in the infamous Wonderland murders.

With young girlfriend Dawn (Bosworth) in tow, Holmes is promising one big score that will set them up for life. Banking on a scam that sets up his friend and notorious nightclub owner Eddie Nash (Bosogian) for a robbery by his psycho 'friends', led by the seriously unhinged Ron Launius (Lucas). The episode was borrowed from in a scene in Boogie Nights, the character of Nash played by Alfred Molina.

Soon after, Launius' Wonderland apartment was broken into and the occupants beaten to death with iron bars. The enduring mystery is whether Holmes ratted out his partners in crime to the fearsome crime bigwig under duress (or at all). Charges were never laid against him and the case remains unsolved.

The filmmaker (the fortuitously-named James Cox) takes an interesting tack by dividing the story roughly into two parts; the story told by one of the gang, David Lind (McDermott), who probably has a few agendas mixed up with his recollection, and Holmes himself when the investigating officers bring him in. It's an accomplishment to make an interesting and satisfying movie about a story nobody knows the end of, and the production design does a great job supporting the tone of the flm.

Kilmer is great once again garnering sympathy for a seedy character scraping the bottom of the barrel, and is propped up when he's not onscreen by excellent support actors Bosworth, Kudrow, McDermott and Lucas.

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