Movie Review: “Welcome to Marwen”
Welcome to Marwen
After a tragic incident outside a local bar, Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) has been unable to put his life back together. He was beaten (nearly to death) for being different. All of his memories were beaten out of him, and it took a long time before he was able to walk. He has recovered enough to walk, but all memories from his past will be forgotten forever. Fortunately, he was surrounded by women that cared about him.
Mark is an artist who takes pictures of dolls in realistic, World War II scenarios. His characters live in a town called Marwen. The town is led by Cap’n Hoagie (Steve Carell), and consists of the various women who have helped Mark through his tough times. Marwen is the subject of Mark’s art, but also serves as a cathartic escape from his real-word problems. He dives into this fictitious world (which shares a lot of similarities with his life) to escape. However, with a parol hearing for his attackers coming up, Mark will have to force himself to face his demons if he wants justice be served.
The Pros & Cons
Steve Carell (+10pts)
The Heels (-5pts)
Marwen & The Nazis (+5pts)
The Women of Marwen (-4pts)
The Visual Effects (+5pts)
Pro: Steve Carell (+10pts)
I had high hopes for this movie and, while a lot of it disappointed me, Steve Carell’s performance did not. He does a magnificent job of showing his character’s inner struggle, and really made me sympathize with the character. There were aspects of this character that were not relatable (which I will dive into later), but Steve Carell’s performance was enough to keep me invested in the character. He is not the most relatable character, but Steve Carell still made me care about him.
I felt really bad for the guy. He is tormented by the memories of the beating, but he is still searching for love and is hopeful for it. There were a lot of great, captivating scenes, where I was so on board with this character, and I believe the major reason for this was the actor playing him. Steve Carell made his name through mastering comedic roles, but he continues to impress audiences in his dramatic roles as well. This is yet another impressive performance by the talented actor.
Con: The Heels (-5pts)
Mark Hogancamp is not your average man. He is not your average man because he likes to wear women’s heels (for reasons that the movie gets into). If a grown man likes to wear women’s heels, that is fine. Who am I to judge? However, the filmmakers gave this aspect of the character a lot of focus which does pose a problem. The problem is that the character becomes unrelatable.
Did I still feel bad for the guy? Of course, but effective stories are ones where the audience can put themselves in the main character’s shoes (pun partially intended). Unfortunately, I could not do that with this character. I still sympathized with him, and wanted to see the story go his way, but part of the story’s impact was lost because I could not fully relate to the Mark. This character point would have been fine if it was addressed, but not focused on so heavily. Unfortunately that was not the case and, while I was rooting for the guy, I had a tough time relating to him.
Pro: Marwen & The Nazis (+5pts)
I liked the town of Marwen and I liked the Nazis (do not take that last part out of context!). I liked that everything in the town symbolizes some aspect of Mark’s life. The town of Marwen consisted of all the women that were there for Mark at the lowest point of his life, and the town keeps getting attacked by a group of Nazis (which symbolized the group of men that attacked Mark). They always defend the town, but the Nazis always come back, which represented Mark’s constant internal struggle with the beating as well as his dependency on the women in his life who help him through it. I liked what all of it symbolized, but it was honestly just fun to explore Marwen.
Cap’n Hoagie is everything Mark wishes he was. He is strong, confident, and brave. This created an entertaining contrast between the two characters (if you can even call them two characters). The constant battles with Nazis also helped prevent the movie from feeling too slow and uneventful, as whenever the movie started slowing down and getting dramatic, there was always a Nazi battle right around the corner. I wish there were more obvious connections between the real world storyline and the Marwen storyline, but the metaphors are all there if you are willing to look for them.
Con: The Women of Marwen (-4pts)
This was one of the story’s weaker areas, in my opinion. We know that the women of Marwen have helped Mark tremendously, but we get very little time with any of them. All of the film’s focus goes towards Roberta, Nicol and Deja. I will mention my issues with Nicol later, and Deja was a character that did not represent any real person. Deja represented something else entirely (that I do not want to spoil), but giving so much focus to her and Nicol meant that we did not get much screentime learning about the women who actually helped Mark.
The one woman of Marwen that I thought was done right, was Roberta. We get to see this character’s relationship with Mark and how much she cares about him. Unfortunately, Roberta was the exception, not the rule. There were five other women of Marwen that we learn almost nothing about. Spending less time with Nicol in order to develop the other women of Marwen would have made the movie a lot more meaningful.
Pro: The Visual Effects (+5pts)
Visually, this movie was unlike any other. A lot of screen time is spent (in Marwen) with the doll versions of these characters. The dolls all looked exactly like their real-world counterparts and the detail was something special. It was all CGI and, even though the characters looked just like toys, the filmmakers were able to get all the facial expressions of the actors. It was an interesting story, and the uniquely impressive visual effects made it easy to get invested in Mark’s fantasy world.
Con: Nicol (-5pts)
Of all the women in Marwen, this is the one that got the most focus, and I thought the film suffered for this choice. Do the filmmakers focus on any of the women who helped him through his tragedy? No, they focus on a women who Mark develops a crush on, and they force us to sit through some truly awkward scenes. Do I believe that Mark grew from his friendship with Nicol? Yes, but I felt that the other women of Marwen were far more deserving of the film’s focus. Focusing on the other women would have created a more inspirational, yet heartbreaking, story. Instead, the filmmakers gave us an awkward story by focusing on Nicol.
Grade: B- (81pts)
My expectations for this movie were pretty high and, while I still did not think it was bad by any means, it did leave me pretty disappointed. I was disappointed because I know it could have been much better. Steve Carell is known for his comedy, but has been consistently knocking it out of the park with his dramatic performances as well, and this movie is no exception. On top of Steve Carell’s stellar performance, the movie has an interesting story and one-of-kind visual effects. However, like I said, I was disappointed with the direction of the story.
Mark’s obsession with heels was something that made him unrelatable as a main protagonist, especially considering how much focus this obsession got. The filmmakers also decided to give little focus to the women of Marwen that helped Mark overcome his tragedy and, instead, decided to focus on Mark’s awkward obsession with Nicol. There was an interesting story here, unfortunately the filmmakers did a lousy job of executing it. They seemed to focus on the more awkward and unrelatable aspects of the man, while glossing over the inspirational aspects of his story. Again, the film was not “bad”. Despite its problems, Steve Carell was fascinating, the visual effects were unlike anything I have seen before, and the time spent in Mark’s fantasy town was entertaining. The film just could have been a lot better than it was.