There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) is sick of his mundane life. He is sick of his ordinary job and he is 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 and spies on his family for awhile longer.
Howard wakes up the next morning to discover 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. With no idea on what to do or say, he decides to continue hiding out in the attic of the garage, spying on his family and learning what they do when he is not around. The longer he keeps this up, however, the harder it will be to explain where he has been, and it puts his relationship with his family at great risk.
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 made this movie watchable, which is saying something when you consider how slow paced the movie was. A lot of this movie consisted of Howard watching his family with Bryan Cranston narrating the character’s thoughts. It was not a very eventful story, but Bryan Cranston’s performance kept me watching.
Howard was messed up. Sometimes it was comical, and sometimes it was very dark, but Bryan Cranston did a great job of balancing these two very different tones in an entertaining or compelling way, depending on which tone he was in at the time. I do not know how many other actors could have done this so effectively, but Bryan Cranston was able to pull it off. This was a dark, slow story with a weird premise, but Bryan Cranston was both entertaining and captivating when he needed to be, and he was easily the best thing about this movie.
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 people. The casting director, the film’s director, Jennifer Garner, Bryan Cranston, and the writers were all partially at fault here. Regardless of who was responsible, the fact remains that I just did not feel the chemistry between the two characters.
Unfortunately, this caused 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 buying their marriage, I did not really care about whether or not their relationship worked, so it did not feel like there was much at stake in the story. The chemistry was not there, the writing was not there, and the director either did not notice or did not care. The result was the story's most crucial relationship failing on pretty much every level.
Pro: The Premise (+3pts)
The premise for this movie was ridiculous, but it was interesting. A man was so sick with his mundane life that he decided to fake his own disappearance so that he could spy on his family from the attic of his garage. The premise was so interesting because there was just so much going on there. It was a very bizarre situation and I was intrigued to explore what lead to the main character’s actions, as well as seeing what came from them.
What would lead a man to go to such extreme lengths? Was Howard sane to begin with and only became crazy due to the monotonous nature of his life, or did he already have some issues and his lifestyle only made it worse? Just how mundane was his life? Did he even love his family? The premise raised so many questions that I wanted to see answered, so it got me to start watching the movie, and it got me continuing to watch it, despite how slow it was. Say what you will about this movie, but the premise was effective. I just wish the execution was better.
Con: The Motivation (-8pts)
While I was fascinated by the movie’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 was doing what he was doing. The majority of the movie’s runtime was spent not knowing the answers to these questions. This left the audience curious, but it also made his actions feel unjustifiable, which made it hard to connect with the main character.
This was made even worse when they inevitably did explain Howard and Diana’s relationship further. Before this, audiences really only cared about Howard because no other character got any real development. Then, when the filmmakers revealed something about the characters’ marriage, it ended up weirding me out, and disconnected me from the primary protagonist. The whole thing was just a mess and it gave me the impression that the filmmakers had an interesting premise, but had no idea about where they wanted to take it. Then when the time came for them to explain why he did what he did, they ended up choosing something that almost no one will relate to.
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 could not know where the filmmakers were taking the premise. Knowing the premise, we knew that Howard was a guy who would do things that most people would not. Throughout this story, Howard went to some extreme places—mentally—in order to survive in the garage for several months without being noticed.
How did he clean himself? What did he eat? Howard did things that will definitely catch audiences off guard and will left me wondering what crazy thing he would do next. It was certainly not enough to distract audiences from the movie’s problems, but it created some entertaining moments, and I will praise Bryan Cranston again by saying he was very entertaining to watch in those crazy 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 in the ending, 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 would be able to get out of his situation. Unfortunately, the writers clearly had the same dilemma. The filmmakers built it up and built it up some more. Then they kind of just ended it randomly and in a way that will disappoint the viewer and make them think they wasted the last couple of hours. 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 where you want that story to go—especially if your movie is supposed to have a twist.
Grade: C- (71pts)
Wakefield was a movie with an interesting premise and a very talented main actor. After that, there was unfortunately not much to it. The premise was so interesting because it was all about a man doing something crazy. It intrigued audiences by making them wonder what could cause a man to do what he did. The setup was compelling and Bryan Cranston gave his all to this role, and while the movie had some major problems, 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 strong premise, but they did not seem to have a plan on where they wanted to take it. It felt like they were just winging it, and did not really care whether or not their answers would be a disappointment. The motivations of the main character and the ending of the movie suffered as a result of this. Bryan Cranston made the movie tolerable, but the movie was far from good.