Thursday, June 01, 2017


As I told a friend who was getting his kitchen redone last year, I have a completely unrealistic conception of how long remodeling jobs should take based upon that time that my family went on vacation for a week and a half when I was a kid we came back to find my grandfather had finished completely redoing the kitchen, maybe not with entirely new appliances, but a bar and beautiful cabinets. It would be some time before I truly grasped that Grampa was absurdly good at this stuff, and remodeling projects generally don't go that quickly.

Which is to say, I know I shouldn't be surprised that the Kendall Square Theatre is not just still undergoing renovations, but it's the same theaters being worked on.


* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 31 May 2017 in Landmark Kendall Square #2 (first-run, DCP)

That I had to reach into my pocket to check the ticket stub for title of the movie I just watched before I started writing can't be a good sign, can it? You come up with reasons why this reaction highlights the film's themes - it reflects the utter anonymity and eventual unimportance of its title character, a man who for petulant reasons hides in the attic of his garage rather than enter his house one night and just stays there, or argue that the ideas will seep into one's head even if certain pieces don't impress. It's not a good sign when something flees the brain like that even before one has stepped onto the bus home.

It's got a striking start, admittedly, as Bryan Cranston's Howard Wakefield impatiently marches through Grand Central Station, oblivious to the ornate decoration around him. Writer/director Robin Swicord outlines a lot of her themes visually in the early scenes, as we see Wakefield grumpily darting through the crowds but still vanishing into them, a dissatisfied man who is nevertheless more likely to fade back into the background than come to prominence. The incidents that jar him out of his routine are good foreshadowing, too, as a power outage pushes him out of the familiar if crowded confines of the train and onto the tracks, and his arrival back in his suburb features a great shot of him walking past storefronts with shadowy figures that may be mannequins or people. Swicord's use of the environment is absolutely terrific here, and even when though it doesn't pack quite so much of a punch as the film goes on - as the plot advances, expediency takes precedent over making a visual statement - she still has an eye for making use of space.

Unfortunately, once Howard arrives home and pauses outside his door, narrating his annoyance at the calls from wife Diana (Jennifer Garner) and deciding to cool his heels until he can enter to a better situation, Swicord finds little of interest in him. An already-shaky premise isn't bolstered with intriguing details, and both the events that prolong the situation and the backstory given simply pile up new ways for him to be selfish and unkind, but without him ever actually becoming darkly entertaining in his cruelty, or finding a way to make a late-film change of heart truly seem sincere, should it come. It seems like a waste of Bryan Cranston, most of the time; Howard is a bland fellow, with Cranston seldom given true reign to be truly reptilian or even entertainingly craven, or chew some scenery when the film should have Howard confronted by how his terrible situation is entirely of his own making.

Full review on EFC.

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