The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar revolves around Henry Sugar, a rich but greedy man who learns to view the back of a card without looking and uses this power to win at gambling.
Wes Anderson has made his OTT debut, but it hasn’t taken away even a bit from his style. If anything, since it is a short film, it is more packed than usual. Based on Roald Dahl’s book of the same name, ‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’ revolves around Henry Sugar (Benedict Cumberbatch), a rich but greedy man who learns to view the back of a card without looking and uses this power to win at gambling. But is power really power if you don’t have to fight hard for it? This is what The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar asks when it tells a story within a story within a story. Sugar’s story is connected to his inspiration Imdad Khan (Ben Kingsley), an Indian man who masters the ‘yoga’ of seeing without his eyes. Khan, in turn, Khan narrates his story to Dr. Chatterjee (Dev Patel) and to us. Narrating these multiple stories to us is the character of Roald Dahl himself sitting in his hut.
The fourth wall is broken throughout the film as the characters constantly talk to you. However, the talking also keeps you on your toes because the characters talk continuously without pausing enough. In this sense, the film is a series of monologues, which is also why the film can feel very exhaustive. The story is kept short indeed, the film is only 39 minutes long. But while the rapid monologues make the film quirky, I would like to see what happens if the film is stretched a bit and the characters are given some space to breathe.
Apart from these factors, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is as Wes Anderson-esque as it gets - a pastel colour palette, sets straight out of paintings, and each move choreographed. The sets and the characters’ costumes even change in front of us. It is almost like watching theatre, even more intimate perhaps, without ever distracting the viewer. Walking to the tunes of this choreographed mastery are the actors themselves. Cumberbatch manages to give a decent performance and so does Patel. The real star of the film, however, is Ben Kingsley with his small stature but clever acting. It is due to the actors that even though the Indian characters, Dr. Chatterjee and Khan, look British and speak English, they still seem believable.
All in all, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, Anderson's debut in the OTT and short film realm, is an experiment done right.
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