Friday, July 28, 2017

Peculiar Premise and Bryan Cranston Make 'Wakefield' a Unique and Compelling Character Study Drama Film

Wakefield is weird.  Based on the short story by E.L. Doctorow, it’s about a New York lawyer named Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) who, likely due to a nervous breakdown, suddenly decides to “vanish” after arriving home from work.  Instead of entering the front door of his house, he proceeds to go up the attic above their house’s separate garage.  In the following weeks, as everyone believes him to be missing or dead, there he stays and hides in the attic, surviving by scavenging for food when nobody’s looking, while secretly observing his wife (Jennifer Garner), children, and neighbors, and contemplating about his life.

The peculiar premise is what drew me to Wakefield.  It’s dark, ridiculous, and novel.  There’s just something morbidly romantic about the idea of walking away from your life without any prior notice but still be able to somehow closely observe what you left behind.  To apply this on a plot immediately makes it an interesting one.  This holds true to this movie as the result is a compelling, thoughtful drama.
Cranston’s invested performance and magnetic voiceover monologues power a fascinating character study.  Howard Wakefield is a well-layered character.  He’s pitiful but, at the same time, obnoxious.  You simultaneously root for and against him.  As the movie unfolds, there’s some excitement found in anticipating how his predicament will be resolved.  Will he reveal himself?  Will he be discovered?  Will he permanently abandon his life and family?   And I was satisfied where the character ended up, as it feels logical, based on how the body of the movie fleshed him out.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a drama film similar to Wakefield.  It’s quite unique.  It’s not necessarily one of this year’s best movies, but it’s definitely one of its must-watch.

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