Sometimes, you just need to get away. But not all that far.
From the outside, Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) seemingly has it all. Two lovely kids, a lovely wife (Jennifer Garner), a solid job in the city, and a cushy, easygoing household out in the New York suburbs. It’s what every man at his age and of his stature would want, but for some reason, Howard doesn’t want it. Like any of it. In fact, he hates his wife, hates his job, hates his house, hates the people he’s surrounded by, and while he doesn’t hate the kids, he comes close. So, when he’s stuck outside in the shed for a short amount of time, he gets the grand idea of staying up there, without being seen or spotted, and just watch his family all from afar. At first, it’s an entertaining diversion from the real world, with real responsibilities and all of that, but eventually, it becomes almost far too serious in nature. After a short while, it isn’t long before Howard gets the grand idea of just staying in that shed, with no plans of ever being found, or letting anyone know just where the hell he’s at, what he’s doing, and what his plans are, once all of this gets far too serious. Issue is, that it eventually does get too serious, but Howard can’t seem to want to leave that damn shed.
Wakefield‘s premise is so wacky and rather silly, that it honestly depends on if you’re absolutely, undeniably willing to go along with it. If you don’t, then the movie’s just not going to work. But if you do, it’s a fun, sometimes hilarious ride that tells us a little bit about all of these characters and most importantly, allows us to peer into the lives of some normal, everyday individuals who we would have never thought we’d want to see a movie about.
But of course, the movie does help itself by not ever taking itself all that seriously which, when your premise is basically about a dude, up in a shed, watching everything going on in his house from afar, while narrating everything, and essentially, getting crazier, dirtier, and smellier, means a whole heck of a lot. In fact, Wakefield itself could have easily gotten old and tiring after the first half-hour, where it became all too clear just what this movie was going to be about, how it was going to spend its time, and what it was going to be doing, time and time again. But for some reason, writer/director Robin Swicord doesn’t allow for it to ever get that way.
If anything, she allows the material to pop-off the screen and be more, well, fun than it ever had any right to be.
The fact that we actually get to know more about Howard, if only through him and his narration, helps us out entirely. Of course, the movie’s narrative-device is always a little bit tricky, because everything we’re being told through him, is never made clear enough to where we can fully trust what he’s saying, or not. It’s not hard to imagine watching this movie again for the small, itty, bitty clues about what Howard’s telling the truth about, and what he isn’t, but because he’s possibly an unreliable narrator, everything we’re told is a lot more compelling, than if he was just to sit us down by the campfire and tell us folk-tales of yesteryear.
Granted, hearing said tales from Bryan Cranston wouldn’t have been all that bad, but what I’m trying to say is this: Wakefield could have easily been a useless bore, but it wasn’t. We find out about this guy, his life, and get to enjoy the time we spend with him even if, at times, it can tend to get a little claustrophobic. Then again, that’s probably the point; the more uncomfortable he feels and the crazier he gets, the more we feel the same way because, after all, we’re trapped with the guy. The movie does attempt to try and be this survival-thriller on the side of its character-building, but in reality, doesn’t get too bothered and remembers that it’s all about Cranston reminiscing on his life.
And man, what reminiscences they are.
It’s interesting to see Cranston in a role like this, because it’s not all that far detached from Walter White; like him, Howard Wakefield is a normal, suburban, middle-class father who wants to break away from the chains of society and figure out what it’s like to live a little dangerously. Granted, how deep he gets is a little goofier this time around, but still, Cranston remains compelling through it all. It’s fun to just sit there and listen to what he has to say, even if mostly all of it could be bull-shit; there’s a certain degree of anger and rage simmering from within that’s easy to feel and because of that, it’s neat to see when and where he pops off.
Cause who doesn’t appreciate a solid Cranston freak-out?
Consensus: Even with the odd premise, Wakefield works because it’s smart, funny, and incredibly well-acted from Cranston, who anchors the whole movie throughout.
7.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire