Title: Next Stop Wonderland
Release Date: August 21, 1998
Director: Brad Anderson
Production Company: Robbins Entertainment
Next Stop Wonderland was released almost simultaneously with my move to Boston in 1998. I remember walking across the Longfellow Bridge to Kendall Square Cinemas and then seeing that same great view of the city from the bridge in the opening shot of the movie. The movie makes great use of Boston area locales, including MBTA subway trains, the New England Aquarium, and The Burren pub in Somerville which was my local watering hole for many years. Almost all movies set in Boston involve mobsters, fanatic sports fans, and/or academics, so it’s great to have Next Stop Wonderland as Boston’s only romantic comedy.
So, I’m predisposed to enjoy this movie for many nostalgic reasons, but rewatching it for the first time in many years I also feel that it is just a really good romantic comedy. The movie tells the parallel stories of two characters, Erin Castleton (90s indie movie queen Hope Davis) and Alan Monteiro (Alan Gelfant). Erin is a registered nurse who’s live in boyfriend Sean (Philip Seymour Hoffman between The Big Lebowski and Boogie Nights but not a huge star yet) leaves her at the beginning of the movie and whose mother places a personal ad in Erin’s name leading to a series of comically bad dates. Alan is a working class son of a plumber going to college to study marine biology and volunteering at the New England Aquarium in his spare time.
The movie has a slice-of-feel to it as the two leads go about their everyday lives while dealing with inappropriate relationships. Erin is briefly drawn to a Brazilian patient (José Zúñiga) while Alan is drawn in by advances of a younger student in his class (Cara Buono, looking very different than on Stranger Things). A number of quirky, comical things happen along the way involving things ranging from kidnapped ballonfish to misattributed Ralph Waldo Emerson quotations.
SPOILER: Erin and Alan finally do meet at the end of the film, which is kind of expected. What is an unexpected is that the ending is ambiguous. They may fall in love, they may just be friends, or they may not ever meet again. What I like about this movie on this watching is that it is really an introvert’s romance. Both characters express a contentment with being alone that you don’t often see in the movies. This could be another reason why this is one of my favorite movies of all-time.