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The Student Media Site of Georgia College & State University

Bobcat Multimedia

The Student Media Site of Georgia College & State University

Bobcat Multimedia

Cale’s cinema corner: “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”

Warning: The following contains spoilers for “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” which is available to stream on Netflix.


Wes Anderson is having a career year.


Although he is of Hollywood’s most renowned directors, he is not one of its most prolific. He is not as productive as, say, his contemporary Steven Soderbergh, who always seems to have a movie either coming out or in production.


But, just three months after the release of Anderson’s latest feature, “Asteroid City,” he has a series of four short films hitting Netflix.


The first, “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” is based on the Roald Dahl short story of the same name. Anderson previously adapted Dahl’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”


The short stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley, Richard Ayoade and Rupert Friend. 


As many of Anderson’s films are, it is a story within a story. It follows the titular Henry Sugar as he stumbles upon a doctor’s account of a man who can see without using his eyes. 


The doctor, Dr. Z.Z. Chatterjee, becomes infatuated with the man, Imdad Khan, after he bandages and wraps his eyes and face before one of his shows. Chatterjee, played by Dev Patel, attends the performance later that night, where Khan, played by Ben Kingsley, demonstrates his preternatural abilities before a live audience. Mesmerized, Chatterjee interviews Khan and recounts his story in — in the words of the film — a “little, blue exercise book.” Sugar finds the book in the library of a mansion he is staying at.


And, as all of Anderson’s works are, the short is a morality tale. Sugar, played by Cumberbatch, is a lonely, rich and unhappy man. He has no direction, no meaning in his life. Because of the wealth he inherited from his father, he does not have to work a traditional job. His job is gambling, and he is not above cheating. 


At first, Sugar sees Khan’s story, a story of determination and focus, as nothing more than an opportunity: an opportunity to count cards, an opportunity to become the best gambler in the country, an opportunity to get richer and richer by the day. And it works; after years of practice, Sugar, too, can see without using his eyes.


And after jumping from casino to casino, winning round after round of blackjack, Sugar sees through himself, both literally and morally. He visualizes a blood clot approaching his heart and realizes it will kill him. Gasping to leave a mark on the world, he turns to a life of philanthropy. In cartoonish, classically Anderson fashion, he — literally — throws his money out the window. A police officer, played by Fiennes, scolds him, telling him he should give to charities rather than littering the streets. 


Sugar dies a noble man — as noble a man can be after experiencing an existential crisis on his deathbed.


In under 40 minutes, Anderson delivers a beautiful, candy-colored parable. It is not as challenging or thought-provoking as “The Royal Tenenbaums” or “The Grand Budapest Hotel” — or “Asteroid City,” even. But it is an adaptation of a children’s story, after all. It is “minor Anderson,” but I do not know what more we can ask for from one of our great filmmakers, a filmmaker who has already given us two-plus decades’ worth of all-time classics. Anything he makes, big or small, passion project or opus, is a treat. I, too, have a sweet tooth.


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