Wakefield Review: A Bryan Cranston Tour De Force
Trying to explain the plot of Wakefield without sounding like a crazy person is nearly impossible. Now, after seeing the film, I think that’s the point. With such an original, sad, and sometimes hilarious, plot, you need an actor who’s going to commit 100% to an unconventional title character. With that being said, I feel like no actor could’ve done as remarkable a job as Mr. Bryan Cranston.
Howard has a loving wife (Jennifer Garner), two daughters, a prestigious job as a Manhattan lawyer, and a comfortable home in the suburbs. But, inwardly, he’s suffocating, and eventually he snaps and goes into hiding in his garage attic, leaving his family to wonder what happened to him. He observes them from his window – an outsider spying on his own life. As the days of exile stretch into months, is it even possible to go back to the way things were?
What a fantastically odd and different movie Wakefield is. The premise is fresh, it deals with marriage and loneliness in the unique way, and even though Wakefield isn’t always the most likable character, we still sympathize with him.
As the title of this review indicates, Bryan Cranston is absolutely genius in the role of Wakefield. He speaks mostly through narration, particularly in the beginning of the film. Narration can either be your best friend, or worst enemy in cinema. Luckily, it’s one of the best parts of the movie.
The line delivery by Cranston is astoundingly well realized, blending absurdity and realism seamlessly. As the story progresses, so does Wakefield’s insanity, and Cranston never once holds back or goes too far down the rabbit hole. “Who hasn’t had the impulse to put life on hold for a moment?” Cranston says early on in the film, and you know what? We’ve all had that thought, we just witness someone put those words into action.
The film offers various flashbacks to Wakefield’s life with his wife, Diana. You see how their relationship blossomed, (even if it is through male manipulation) and how it came to the point of being mundane and annoying. The authenticity of director Robin Swicord’s portrayal of an inside look into the couple’s marriage is unflinching. The nonverbal subtext of both Garner and Cranston’s performances ooze with body language and eye movements that only someone who’s been married can appreciate.
The film does feel a little too long, with pacing issues during the second act that comes to a halt. If it were trimmed to a 90-minute runtime, I feel it would’ve benefited the story, as well as keeping the focus on Wakefield as a character, instead of throwing in filler scenes.
I couldn’t help but to notice the nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, which is more of an homage than a parody. Peering through glass to invade someone else’s privacy, but Howard Wakefield isn’t trying to catch a killer, he’s observing his family’s actions after he goes missing.
At its center, Wakefield is a sad, depressing story about a man who thinks he’s succeeding and gaining a sense of fulfillment throughout his mid-life crisis. Sadly, this isn’t the case for Howard. What he ends up seeing is heart wrenching, even the dialogue was a bit “on the nose” toward the latter half of the movie.
Regardless, there is no denying the powerhouse that is Bryan Cranston. His dedication is exquisite, and he gives every ounce of himself to Wakefield as a character. The film may not be for everyone, but for those niche audiences out there, Wakefield is a fascinating tale into one man’s interpretation of happiness.
Wakefield comes out in select theaters on May 19, 2017.