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Wonka: Timothée Chalamet Shines As Young Chocolatier In Brand New Prequel

By Celina Tran

Timothée Chalamet delivers a charming performance as everyone’s favorite chocolatier, Willy Wonka, in the 2023 prequel, Wonka. With a new cast and storyline, this movie offers a less sour origin story to the whimsical Wonka we meet in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

As soon as Timothée Chalamet’s casting as Willy Wonka was announced in 2021, the internet buzzed with opinions. After all, the ascending, young Hollywood star had massive shoes to fill, following Gene Wilder’s original performance as the character in the 1971 Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. Now that the movie has finally arrived in theatres, it’s safe to conclude that Chalamet has defied expectations. 

Wonka follows young Willy Wonka as he tries to realize his sweet chocolate dreams with nothing but little to no money and  “a hat full of dreams”. After seven years at sea, he hopes to finally open his chocolate shop at the Galleries Gourmet, the city’s bustling market. However, with a chocolate cartel ruling the marketplace, his dream proves a bigger challenge than anticipated. On top of that, Willy has to figure out how to survive without money. 

The first night, he lands himself in a laundrette run by Mrs. Scrubbit and grubby, old Bleacher, played by the amazing Olivia Coleman and Tom Davis. There, they trick him into owing them 10,000 silver sovereigns, which he will pay back by working over 20 years in the laundrette along with other poor, unfortunate souls, tricked into the same destiny. Here he is introduced to a crew of new friends, including the young orphan Noodle, who will help him along the way. Meanwhile, the chocolate cartel, who has an iron grip over the local, “chocoholic” authorities and religious leaders, is doing everything to stop Willy from achieving his dream. 

Timothée Chalamet, in the titular role of Willy Wonka, delivers a performance that is as charming as it is captivating. Chalamet effortlessly embodies the eccentric chocolatier, but gives him a slightly more down-to-earth and warm feel, encouraging the audience to imagine the character’s journey to Charlie’s time, if they wish. His chemistry with his cast members, especially Noodle (Calah Lane) makes it impossible to not be charmed.

The film is also full of impressive musical numbers. While one must note that while his performances of Nicki Minaj's Roman's Revenge and Statistics are most impressive, 'Lil Timmy Tim' has truly shown the range of his talents in this performance. His voice is also unexpectedly fitting for a movie musical. The cherry on top, however, might be Hugh Grant's musical appearances as the Oompa Loompa.

But Wonka is beyond a mere musical spectacle. In this enchanting world, director Paul King truly pays homage to Roald Dahl’s timeless world with this colourful and lively journey. The cinematic confectionery is a scrumptious treat for audiences of all ages – a perfect concoction of nostalgia and fresh perspectives. 

Wonka successfully marries the magic of childhood with a modern cinematic sensibility. It's a celebration of creativity, love, a good story, and of course, a pure imagination. Some might argue that King is playing it safe with his version of Willy Wonka, however, I'll argue that another version might keep Chalamet reaching, becoming an unimpressive parody of his predecessors. This soft, perhaps a little naive, yet charming and eccentric Wonka works very well as it is.

In a movie landscape full of disappointing reboots and adaptations, Wonka stands out. Once again, just like with Paddington, Paul King shows that he knows exactly what he's doing.

Wonka is available in theatres across UK and Ireland now, and on the 15th in the US.


About the Writer:

Celina Tran is a writer, freelance journalist and editor based in Dublin, Ireland. She's the Editor-in-Chief at Erato Magazine and spends all her spare time editing, reading, or whipping up yet another piece of writing that will likely end up in the box of unfinished manuscripts.

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