Timothée Chalamet is Wonka's golden ticket in a film of nostalgic indulgence
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Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Wonka is the prize to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s golden ticket.
I had goosebumps on multiple occasions throughout the all-singing, Hugh Grant-bobbing, cinematic masterpiece written by Paul King and Simon Farnaby.
Although, starring Timothée Chalamet, I admit, I entered the cinema with some hesitance - would he really be the right actor to follow on from Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp's portrayals of the eccentric chocolatier? But as Chalamet's Wonka says himself, I very much 'scratch[ed] that, reverse[ed] it' with my preconceptions.
And Paddington's King and Farnaby definitely didn't harbor any similar sentiment to me, telling UNILAD they had Chalamet in mind for the role very early on in writing the screenplay of the movie.
The film doesn't dilly dally around, it shoves Chalamet straight in your face from the opening scene... On top of a boat... And singing.
Chalamet's Wonka has a 'hat full of dreams,' and I sat in the cinema with a heart full of hope the 27-year-old Dune star wouldn't botch Roald Dahl's bizarre and beloved Willy Wonka.
Thankfully, the actor did quite the opposite. And after quickly realising this, I was happy to backtrack on my doubts, shovel a handful of chocolate into my mouth and exhale into my seat to indulge.
Chalamet excels as a more human Wonka - naive and hopeful in chasing his dreams, chasing a memory and running from dealing with a great sadness. He is endearing, enigmatic, engaging - he fits Wonka's top hat and purple velvet coat perfectly.
And 'Timmy' was in the minds of King and Farnaby 'quite early on', Farnaby tells UNILAD.
King continues: "He was definitely in our heads. I think it's probably about half-and-half."
In another half-and-half, the film is just as much for adults as it is for kids - if not even more so for adults.
It reminds you of the child you 'left behind' and the simplicity and beauty of being young, so poignant and accurate in its reflection of childhood I felt as if the patch of grey on my head turned brown again for the one hour and 56 minutes I sat in the theater.
And just when it gets too cheesy, the British humour bubbling out of Farnaby and King cuts through.
"You were lucky if he did the line. Essentially, you wind him up and then let the cameras roll. [...] He's extraordinary," the director says.
Farnaby echoes: "[Key] was incredible. And we were really big fans of his, as a sketch comedian [...] We met him and he was hilarious."
However, while transporting viewers back to their childhoods, unlike Wonka, the film is not naive, quick to note 'the greedy beat the needy' and that remains 'the way of the world' - both in real life and in the film's setting.
Speaking of himself and Farnaby, King explains: "We've both got children and you sort of try to teach them if they work hard and [...] do their best that they will get their reward in the world. And, sadly, it's not always that straightforward.
"I think the journey Willy goes on - from somebody who goes out into the world with that sort of optimistic, possibly slightly naive view of things and discovers it's not that straightforward, but manages to kind of muster the courage to actually try and change the world.
"And that was [...] the line from pure imagination that was a real keystone for us - the want to change the world. 'There's nothing to it', which [Wonka] just says and it's a few syllables, but it's so profound.
"And [...] to have the courage to change the world when it doesn't seem right I suspect will always be a life lesson we need."
The film ultimately reminds us to 'enjoy the adventure' because dreams don't always work out exactly how we want and it's who you share the journey with which matters most.
It unwraps what truly matters in life, whisks us back to indulge in childhood delights and prompts us to find the joy in the small things again.
I was bewitched, bedazzled, beWonka-d - so much so, I'm making up words to describe how I felt after watching it - yes, really, it's that amazing.
And as Mr Wonka told Grandma Georgina in Dahl's 1972 Great Glass Elevator: "A little nonsense, now and then, is relished by the wisest men."
Although, in speaking about the Glass Door sequel, King notes he's 'not sure the Great Glass Elevator would be the way to go' if they returned to Wonka.
But the screenwriters would 'love to return to Wonka' in some other way.
Farnaby explained: "Let's see if people take this to their hearts and really love this then then we'd be delighted if he's got more of his journey to go on."
And if my reaction to the movie is anything to go by, then keep your eyes peeled for future announcements, because Wonka made me want to sing, cry, cheer and jump for joy all at once - it's a whipple-scrumptiously, goose-bumpingly, foot-stomping success.
It may not be possible to live in pure imagination all the time, but dabbling in a little indulgence every now and then is important so we don't lose sight of what really matters in life. And for that, Wonka is a cup of chocolate the whole world needs to drink right now.
A moment in the movie sees Noodle ask Wonka: "Is it as good as you remembered?"
Wonka responds: "Every little bit."
And following after the previous Chocolate Factory films, that's just how Wonka feels too.
Wonka is released in UK cinemas from 8 December 2023 and US cinemas from 15 December.