Movie Review: “Wakefield”
Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) is sick of his mundane life. He is sick of his ordinary job and sick of his ordinary suburban life. Late one night, Howard takes the train home from work. When he gets to his house, he looks in at his wife preparing dinner and decides he cannot take it anymore. He decides to hide out in the attic of his garage to spy on his family for awhile longer.
The next morning, Howard wakes up to find he had fallen asleep in the attic of the garage. His family is worried and Howard cannot think of a lie to justify where he had been. The next decision he makes ends up having drastic changes on his life. He decides to continue hiding out in the attic of the garage for several months, spying on his family and learning what they do when he is not around. The longer he keeps this up, however, the more he may be risking his relationship with his family.
The Pros & Cons
Bryan Cranston (+10pts)
Diana Wakefield (-6pts)
The Premise (+3pts)
The Motivations (-8pts)
The End (-6pts)
Pro: Bryan Cranston (+10pts)
By far, the best part of this movie was Bryan Cranston. He makes this movie watchable, which is saying something when you consider how slowly paced the movie is. A lot of this movie consists of Howard watching his family with Bryan Cranston narrating the character’s thoughts. It is not a very eventful story, but Bryan Cranston’s performance kept me watching.
Howard is messed up. Sometimes it is comical, and sometimes it is very dark, but Bryan Cranston does a great job of balancing the two in a compelling way. I do not know how many other actors could have done so, but Bryan Cranston was able to pull off this role. This is a dark, slow story with a weird premise, but Bryan Cranston was both entertaining and captivating.
Con: Diana Wakefield (-6pts)
My issue was not so much with Jennifer Garner herself, but I did not buy the relationship between her character and Howard. I just did not buy that her and Bryan Cranston were husband and wife, and I know that the blame for this falls on the shoulders of many. The casting director, the film’s director, Jennifer Garner, Bryan Cranston, and the writers were all partially at fault here. I just did not feel the chemistry between the two characters.
Unfortunately, this causes a big problem for the story. In order to really care about what Howard was doing, we as an audience needed to care about the marriage between these two characters. Due to not caring about the relationship, it did not feel like there was much at stake in the story. I just did not feel like there was enough chemistry between the two actors, the director failed to see it, the writers did not give the actors much to work with, and the actors failed to make it work. The relationship between the two main characters really just failed on every level.
Pro: The Premise (+3pts)
The premise for this movie is ridiculous, but it is interesting. A man is so sick with his mundane life that he decides to fake his own disappearance so that he can spy on his family from the attic of his garage for several months. The premise is so interesting because there is just so much going on there. This is a very bizarre situation and I was intrigued to explore what leads to the main character’s actions.
What would lead a man to go to such extreme lengths? Was Howard sane to begin with or did he already have some issues? Just how mundane was his life? Does he even love his family? The premise raises so many questions which made me watch the movie. The premise achieved its goal, I just wish the execution was better.
Con: The Motivation (-8pts)
While I was fascinated by the film’s premise, I felt that the filmmakers did a poor job of answering most of the questions raised by said premise. Most importantly, the filmmakers did a poor job of explaining why Howard is doing what he is doing and what lead to him doing it. The majority of the film’s runtime is spent not knowing the answers to these questions. This leaves the audience curious, but it also makes his actions feel less impactful because we, the audience, are not entirely on his side yet.
This is made even worse when they inevitably explain Howard and Diana’s relationship further. Before this, audiences really only care about Howard because no other character gets any real development. Then, when the filmmakers reveal something about the characters’ marriage, it will end up weirding the audience out. Rather than shock the audience, what this does is take the audience from: only caring about Howard to only caring about Howard but caring about him less. The whole thing was a mess and gave me the impression that the filmmakers had an interesting premise, but had no idea about where they wanted to take it.
Pro: Unpredictable (+3pts)
There was somewhat of a bright side to the filmmakers not knowing where they wanted to take the premise. The bright side was that the audience also will not know where the filmmakers are taking the premise. Knowing the premise, we know that Howard is a guy who will do things most people would not. Throughout this story, Howard goes to some extreme places in order to survive in the garage for several months without being noticed.
Does he clean himself? What does he eat? Howard does things that will definitely catch audiences off guard and will leave them wondering what crazy thing he will do next. It is certainly not enough to distract audiences from the movie’s problems, but it creates some mildly entertaining moments, and I will praise Bryan Cranston again by saying he was very entertaining to see in those situations.
Con: The End (-6pts)
The main cause for me not liking the motivations of Howard was that it did not seem like the filmmakers knew where they wanted to go with the character and with the premise. The same was true with the overall ending of the movie. I am not going to spoil anything here, but the ending was severely unsatisfying. The filmmakers clearly had no idea where they were going with this story and it showed.
There was so much build up for the character of Howard. For the majority of the movie, audiences will be wondering how (or if) he will be able to get out of his situation. Unfortunately, the writers clearly had the same dilemma. The movie builds up and builds up, then kind of just ends in one of the least satisfying ways. This story should serve as a lesson to the filmmakers, if you are going to start making a movie, you should maybe have an idea of how that story ends.
Grade: C- (71pts)
Wakefield is a movie with an interesting premise and a very talented main actor. After that, there was not much to this movie. The premise was so interesting because it was all about a man doing something extreme. It intrigued audiences by making them wonder what could take a man so far. The setup was compelling and Bryan Cranston gave his all to this role. The movie had some major problems, but Bryan Cranston’s performance made the movie watchable.
The movie’s problems all seemed to stem from one overarching issue, the filmmakers had no idea where they were going with the story. They either did not give answers to important questions or they answered them in a very unsatisfying way. The filmmakers had a premise, but they did not seem to have a plan on where they wanted to take it. The motivations of the main character and the ending of the movie suffered for this mistake. Bryan Cranston made the movie tolerable, but the movie was far from good.