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Non-Review Review: Welcome to Marwen

Welcome to Marwen is a deeply weird film, and not in a good way.

The basic structure of the film is a feel good narrative of a character coming to terms with his post-traumatic stress disorder. Mark Hogancamp was beaten almost to death by a group of Neo-Nazis outside a bar, for nothing more than mentioning that he liked to wear women’s clothes. Mark has retreated into himself, creating a model village called “Marwen”, an anachronistic Belgian village from the Second World War. The town is home to a toyetic doppelgänger for Mark, the heroic “Hoogie”, who finds the courage to fight Nazis despite his losses.

The toast of the town.

The arc of the film is very obvious from that premise, with a number of other details sprinkled into the script to provide stakes and momentum. Nicol, an attractive redhead dealing with the loss of her son and a stalker ex-boyfriend, moves in across the way and connects with Mark. At the same time, the sentencing of the criminals who attacked Mark is fast approaching, and Mark needs to read his “victim impact statement” in open court. There is also a suggestion that Mark is wrestling with addiction, having to careful ration his painkillers.

All of this is fairly standard prestige picture stuff, providing Mark and the audience with a very clear journey across the film and offering a potentially hopeful conclusion to Mark’s journey. This is all very hokey, but it could work. It is a very earnest narrative, but director Robert Zemeckis is the kind of storyteller who knows how to make those sorts of narratives work. Forrest Gump is a beloved classic for a reason, no matter how clumsy and hokey it might be.

Mark his words…

However, Welcome to Marwen chooses to elaborate upon its stock upbeat triumph-over-adversity template in a number of frankly bizarre ways. Welcome to Marwen flails wildly between genres, pivoting from earnest and overwrought melodrama to absurd fantasy to lazy comedy on a dime. The issue is not that Welcome to Marwen doesn’t cohere as a film, the issue is that many of the individual scenes within the film struggle to find a consistent tone from one minute to another.

Zemeckis is a skilled enough craftsman that the film impresses on a purely technical level; the dolls tilt into the uncanny valley on occasion, but there is every indication that this is intentional. However, on a purely narrative level, Welcome to Marwen feels like it was put together by a twelve-year-old who had only read about how movies work.

Hoogie’s heroes.

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Non-Review Review: Beautiful Boy

Beautiful Boy is a cocktail essentially comprised of three contrasting main ingredients, none of which particularly gel.

Most obviously, it is a traditional performance-driven piece of awards fare designed to showcase the talents of Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carrell; there is a lot of shouting, a lot of confrontation, a lot of listless staring. On top of that, it is also a more modern piece of awards fare, one younger and hipper than stodgy old dramas about addiction; Beautiful Boy might be a good seventy-percent intercut montage set to music of beloved artists like David Bowie and John Lennon. The remaining third is a fifties moral panic anti-drugs film for the twenty-first century.

This movie is Timothée Chala-meh.

These three styles of film are constantly battling within Beautiful Boy. There must be a way to synthesise these three competing approaches into a holistic and satisfying piece of work, but instead Beautiful Boy bounces frantically from one mode to another, never settling on a single cohesive tone or approach. This is disappointing, as Beautiful Boy is a very earnest and sincere piece of work. There’s a strong sense that the film is trying to articulate something that is both important and profound. However, it just cannot clearly translate that sentiment into speech.

Beautiful Boy is a mess of a film, but a fascinating mess in a number of places.

Yes. Most of the screenshots of this film will be of Timothée Chalamet. Why?

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Non-Review Review: Stupid Crazy Love

Stupid Crazy Love suffers a bit from being a tad inconsistent, fluctuating between compelling character drama and well-observed romantic comedy. It isn’t an issue that movie fails at either of these, it just runs into a bit of bother bouncing between the two extremes. The ending might be a little trite, and a tad conventional, but the movie manages to raise some interesting ideas along the way. Still, it allows Steve Carell his best big screen appearance since The 40-Year-Old Virgin and makes for an alternatingly side-splittingly and heart-breakingly affecting movie.

Saving Ryan's Privates...

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Non-Review Review: Date Night

Date Night is a perfectly okay film (okay, maybe a tinsy bit better than “perfectly okay”, but “a tinsy bit better than than a perfectly okay film” just doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as it should). It essentially coasts off its deliciously old-school comedy-of-errors premise and the charisma of its two leading actors (plus their ensemble of cameo! friends), while never really trying too hard or ever really hitting a note of pitch perfect comic genius. There are no lines you’ll be quoting to yourself for weeks afterwards (except maybe “kill shot!” every time somebody tilts their sideways gun at you – but I’ll assume that doesn’t happen too often).

Their date night is about to become a late night...

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Non-Review Review: Little Miss Sunshine

I think everyone has family issues. They’re a bunch of people in your life who you never chose to be close to you. And you’re stuck with them, for better or worse. I think that’s why Little Miss Sunshine strikes the chord it does. That, and it’s an astonishingly good film.

"Everyone pretend to be normal."

"Everyone pretend to be normal."

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