Filed in Premieres Reviews Stills The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

‘The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar’ premieres at the 80th Venice International Film Festival to rave reviews

Wonderful, indeed!

Following the press exclusive screening yesterday, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar premiered today at the 80th Venice Film Festival!

Director Wes Anderson attended the event (the cast understandably didn’t due to the SAG-AFTRA strike) and, while presenting the film, said he loved working with Benedict:

Besides a standing ovation of almost 4 minutes, the film has been received with high praise and mostly enthusiastic reviews. We’ve selected some bits from all reviews we could find right now to share with you, trying to keep things as non-spoilery as possible. Check them out below:

The Wrap (Ben Croll)

Naked and vulnerable in all the ways this year’s previous effort was girded by walls of remove, “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” points towards a new and earnest direction for the idiosyncratic filmmaker.

IndieWire (David Ehrlich)

But the style here sure is outrageous, as the hermetic nature of Dahl’s plot gives Anderson the chance to make something that has no grounding in reality. There isn’t any “now” in “Henry Sugar,” nor a single moment when its story exists apart from its telling. All five of the film’s actors play multiple roles, and even the most dramatic changes of scenery are seamlessly accomplished with a simple move of Robert Yeoman’s camera, which dollies right just in time for Dahl to pass the narrator’s baton to Mr. Sugar himself (Anderson newcomer Benedict Cumberbatch, a natural addition to the filmmaker’s troupe). 

Roger Ebert (Glenn Kenny)

The story is a meta-narrative (unless, of course, you choose to believe Dahl’s assertion that it’s true) that takes off when Henry (Benedict Cumberbatch, utterly perfect), bored, goes to the drastic extreme of taking a book off of a rich friend’s library shelf. (…) It’s disarming and lovely to see a spiritual growth parable rendered in Anderson’s jewel-box style. His delivery here is not willfully eccentric but gorgeously centered. Form underscores content in “Henry Sugar” in a most delightful way. 

The Film Verdict (Alonso Duralde)

If Asteroid City was writer-director Wes Anderson’s love letter to the stage, his new Netflix short pays homage to stagecraft, with flats, backdrops, props, and even hair and makeup changes flying in from the wings.

Variety (Peter Debruge)

At that tight running time, it’s dauntingly dense, but also ready to compete in the Oscar short category, where it would be better than every winner since Martin McDonagh’s “Six Shooter” way back in 2006.

Games Radar (Jane Crowther)

Fans of the original text will find the auteur doesn’t stray far from Dahl’s story – one that’s curiously altruistic and, well, sweet, eschewing the writer’s trademark displays of human cruelty. But Henry Sugar is also exactly what you’d expect – to the point where it almost tips into a pastiche of Anderson in the vein of the TikTok homages he reportedly avoids. All the same, it feels as warm and detailed as The Grand Budapest Hotel. So, for anyone frustrated by the recent Asteroid City, this could be as cosy an experience as re-reading a tattered childhood copy of your favourite Dahl.

The Hollywood Reporter (Leslie Felperin)

Like the rich food at restaurants aspiring to Michelin stars, every shot here might feel over-flavored for the Anderson-averse, prompting a sort of cinematic dyspepsia. By that logic, the movie’s brevity (40 minutes) might make for a more digestible snack, so even Anderson-phobes will perhaps find in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar a perfectly well-balanced reduction. It’s got most of Anderson’s signature flavor notes but in healthy, clarified stock.

Screen Daily (Nikki Baughan)

(…) where Dahl appears at a window to pass the story’s narration onto Henry Sugar himself (a wonderfully straight-faced Benedict Cumberbatch) (…) it’s all so meticulously choreographed and edited by Barney Pilling and Andrew Weisblum, that it plays as a fluid non-stop piece of drama, despite obvious cuts — such as when characters walk off screen and return immediately in different costumes. The result is funny and charming, a short but entirely satisfying confection.

The Playlist (Rafaela Sales Ross)

The hit-and-miss Cumberbatch is quite the lovely surprise as the film’s main character, his stern mannerisms bringing a welcome cartoonish quality to the greatly cartoonish Henry Sugar—a feat that skips the tiresome when neatly contained within a short runtime. Luckily for us all, this isn’t the last time Anderson will turn to a short film structure to adapt the work of Dahl. The filmmaker is set to direct a series of adaptations in a similar tighter format, marking one of cinema’s most well-matched marriages with a whimsically wonderful anthology. [B+] 

The Film Stage (Leonardo Goi)

The dialogue tags (“I said,” “he cried”) that litter Patel and Cumberbatch’s deadpan delivery serve more than just comic relief; they remind one that this is a story passed on through different voices, one inviting us––as the filmmaker’s best unfailingly do––to bask in the pleasures of storytelling. Throughout, Henry Sugar evokes the exhilarating feeling of a campfire fable, growing larger at each retelling.
Nothing here is real, and the crew’s sporadic appearances go hand-in-hand with Robert Yeoman’s cinematography and Adam Stockhausen’s production design. (…) Neither twee nor saccharine, Anderson’s aesthetic tends to mirror the auras and oddball personalities of his films. In a work suffused with stupefying mysteries, the strange visions Henry Sugar teems with echo its drifters’ wide-eyed wonder as well as their creator’s. It’s an infectious feeling.

Little White Lies (Hannah Strong)

At a dinky 37 minutes, it’s his second shortest film after Hotel Chevalier, which was shot as a companion piece to The Darjeeling Limited. It’s also utterly charming, though we’ve come to expect as much from Anderson’s meticulously constructed technicolour worlds. (…)  It might even serve as a bit of a joke about the constant accusations his filmography faces, of his films being all style over substance. But for devotees, it’s a delightful little morsel, lovingly brought to life as only Anderson knows how, and illustrates his creativity when it comes to adaptation.

The Telegraph (Robbie Collin)

This being a Wes Anderson film, it almost goes without saying the details are delectable – and while Henry himself lacks a signature look as strong as the director’s usual eccentric protagonists, a scene in which Cumberbatch rattles through a series of quick costume changes is a hoot, and again helps position this winning experiment as just a hop and a skip away from a variety act.

The Guardian (Xan Brooks)

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar was widely regarded as one of Dahl’s gentler, happier short stories – insofar as it didn’t feature a serial killer landlady or an infant Adolf Hitler. It spun a reassuring yarn of redemption and saluted a bad man who made good. Anderson’s short, sweet, neatly managed production follows the original tale pretty much to the letter.

NME (James Mottram)

Rattling along at a breakneck pace – it makes the director’s The French Dispatch look like a l’escargot race – it’s filled with make-you-smile moments. (…)  It’s not exactly profound, but if the message is that money can be used for good, then that’s no bad thing. With three other Dahl shorts set to accompany this when it all drops on Netflix, this is nirvana for fans of both the author and Anderson.

AwardsWatch (Adam Solomons)

Cumberbatch is less memorable, perhaps because Sugar has very little to do (…) Henry Sugar lacks the visual ingenuity of Anderson’s previous Dahl adaptation, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and in most parts tones down the visual symmetry and quickness that has come to define the director’s recent work. The three other Dahl short stories we’re set to get from Anderson could benefit from a little more invention. But this is a welcome return to a story with a little more substance and a simple moral message.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar comes out on Netflix worldwide September 27th. Just a few more days to go, folks! In the meantime, you can check out the new stills we’ve added to our gallery: