When Next Stop Wonderland opens, Erin (Hope Davis), a registered nurse who lives in Boston, has just been unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend. Actually, the ceremony will come later when Erin plays the videotape her boyfriend made detailing the reasons he had to leave her. A pretty woman whose face can fold like a dishrag when she's tired, Erin isn't exactly happy that she's on her own again, but she isn't exactly sad either. Director Brad Anderson is after that elusive feeling we call melancholia, where we feel sad but rather enjoy curling up inside our sadness. And Davis, who has to work at it to crack a smile--she has the face of a Botticelli--seems ideally cast. Every move Erin makes, even sitting at home by herself reading, leaves a bittersweet taste in the movie's mouth.
And then there's Alan (Alan Gelfant), a plumber who'd like to become a marine biologist but first has to get the Mob off his back. Erin and Alan are probably meant for each other, but the script keeps them apart until the final scene--a Hollywood-ish idea (Sleepless in Seattle, 'Til There Was You) that Anderson dresses up in off-Hollywood clothes. There are more jump-cuts in one scene of Next Stop Wonderland than Jean-Luc Godard has used in his entire career. Otherwise, Anderson is closer to Truffaut in the kind of mood he's after. I can't say I felt fate shoving these two together, but Erin's story can stand up on its own. The movie's highlight is when, thanks to a personal ad, a whole series of men audition for a role in Erin's life. The expression on her face--bored fascination--is worth the price of admission.