Seven years after his first novel was hailed a 'modern classic', Grady Tripp can't finish the follow-up. It just keeps growing. Then there's his writing student James Leer (Maguire), who's enviably gifted, even if he's suicidal, a congenital liar and a thief. On the eve of the university's WordFest festival, Grady's wife leaves, his lover the Dean (McDormand) announces she's pregnant and, worst of all, his editor (Downey) comes calling. Douglas gives one of the most appealing performances of his career as the well meaning but hopelessly befuddled Tripp. On the surface, Hanson's film of Michael Chabon's novel has little in common with the labyrinthine iniquities of LA Confidential. But you don't have to peek far into this insular campus setting to unearth discontents and a comparable pattern of people in different social trajectories, inadvertently plotting a collision course - though here it happens to be more comic than tragic. Wonder Boys digresses so entertainingly, you forget how quickly Grady got into the mess he's in, and can't imagine where we might be headed. That confusion is unusual in an American movie, only enhancing the pleasure of Steve Kloves' sophisticated dialogue, and the quality of the craftsmanship. The film also elicited a fine new Dylan song, 'Things Have Changed', for its rock-strewn soundtrack.