Friday, 30 April 2010

Indie Movie Review - The Living Wake

The Living Wake is an indie movie directed by Sol Tyyon. Set on the last day in the life of self-professed genius K. Roth Binew (Mike O’Connell), it’s a black comedy about his efforts to finally find what his father had promised to tell him but hadn’t stayed around long enough to impart – the “brief but powerful monologue” that would encompass the whole meaning of existence. Aided by his one and only friend, Mills (Jesse Eisenberg), who dotes on his every word, he sets off on his last day of life to accomplish a list that will lead him to enlightenment. Or something like that.

This movie is often insane, frequently funny and usually very weird. O’Connellbrilliantly portrays a larger-than-life character who can’t understand why the rest of the world doesn’t see things his way; Eisenberg’s performance as the much quieter but perhaps even weirder Mills is quite exceptional. The humour doesn’t always work, particularly towards the end where events seem to drag a bit, but there’s some sparkling wordplay early on and a few hilarious situations.

As it’s an indie movie I’m not sure if it’s been officially rated, but I’d guess it would be a 12A (PG-13) – there are a few adult situations and a bit of a preoccupation with a particular expletive (not the F word). The film really didn’t need the swearing to be funny, in fact I’m sure it would have been funnier without it. The humour often stems from the sheer craziness of the characters and situations, and while I don’t think this film would appeal to everyone, I would think most people would end up laughing quite a bit.

It’s not all comedy though, there are a few quite tender moments that tend to blindside you as they come out of nowhere. The friendship between Binew and Mills, which seems like master and servant much of the time, turns out to be quite a close mutually affectionate friendship. Relations with family, neighbours and acquaintances, though usually bizarre, will quite often strike a chord with viewers.

Production-wise it’s nicely filmed, with a small number of locations used to great effect. The music (mainly violin-led) is good and the sound quality is fine, though just once or twice it was difficult to catch what a couple of characters were saying. Original music was by Carter Little and Mike O’Connell, while Scott Miller oversaw the cinematography. (I have to mention that The Living Wake had one of the strangest song and dance routines in the history of film-making!)

The Living Wake is certainly an unusual film; it’s quirky and creative, and apart from being a bit too slow in the final sequence thoroughly entertaining. If you like movies that are a bit outside the mainstream, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy this one.

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