I had considered this for Christmas Eve with Mom. It looked rather whimsical and hopeful, and the first couple reviews I saw were positive. Then the positivity dropped, and most critics panned it. I don’t mind seeing a bad movie, but I’d hate to subject someone else to one, esp when they’re solely trusting my judgement. As it was, I was gonna wait on this one until I got back home to LA (where I’m writing this now), but my attempt to see Vice on the last day was foiled (sold out , I think) so split second decision I bought a ticket to Marwen instead.
Directed by the legendary Robert Zemeckis, Steve Carrell plays Mark Hogencamp. Hogencamp is the victim of a hate crime, having been brutally beaten outside a bar three years earlier for making a comment about how he loves to wear high heels. He barely escaped with his life, but the same can’t be said for his memories. Everything pre-attack is wiped. As a form of art therapy, the former illustrator (who can now barely write his name) has turned to photography, taking photos of the dolls and sets he’s constructed in his back yard. These items form the town of Marwen, a fictional German city during WWII, and the dolls that inhabit Marwen are based on the people in his life–primarily the women who have given Mark strength in his own life.
This is kind of a tricky one to talk about. There’s so much about it that I loved and so much that fell short. I loved Mark’s art. The photographs were stunning, and the world he created was so beautiful. The dolls looked exquisite and the way they came to life in his mind was so moving. I also felt tremendous empathy towards Mark, which is what kept me most connected to the movie. Here was a broken man that the rest of the world may have forgotten about, but he’s found a way to pick his life up and try to move forward.
I also loved the ladies alongside him, although some of them were criminally underused. While we see them in doll form throughout, there’s very little real life Janelle Monae or Gwendolyn Christie. But the ladies who are more prominent, Leslie Mann and Merrit Weaver are absolutely delightful.
So if all of that was great, why don’t I think the film ultimately worked? The storytelling was off. Even knowing most of the premise, it still took me some time to piece together what was going on. I feel like if I had gone in completely cold, I would have been completely lost for at least half of the movie. The plot itself was moving forward, but it felt stunted, like it was holding back from moving as forward as I could. I suppose that could be a statement about Mark’s state of mind, but you still expect a film to be watchable and exciting.
Ultimately, I think it was missing the level of whimsical Zemeckis charm that I’ve come to expect and love. I had hoped that this would have a Forrest Gump sorta vibe, but it was nowhere near that level of heart and feeling, making the whole thing kinda frustrating.
Welcome to Marwen – \m/ \m/ \n