Last night, I watched a wonderful little film on DVD that was released earlier this year, Wakefield. It stars Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner, based on a fascinating short story by E.L. Doctorow (who wrote Ragtime and Billy Bathgate).
Cranston is really the core of the story though and he gives a gem of a performance. Basically it’s about a man having what could best be described as a massive midlife crisis and runs away from his family – except he hides in the attic of their coach house garage and watches his wife and two kids from there. (There’s more, but that’s the focus of the story, told entirely from his perspective.)
To give full credit to Garner, she gives a very good performance as her character has to range from anger at her husband not getting back to her, concern at his disappearance, the challenge of having to take new responsibility for the family, deciding whether to move on with her life and more, -- most of it done in a sort of "pantomime" since Cranston can't hear much of what she's saying. Though Cranston still is the omnipresence in everything.
A major challenge of the film is to take such an unbelievable premise -- a husband living in the family's garage for such a long period and not only not being discovered, but simply surviving -- and make us accept it. And the film pulls it off, coming up with a thoughtful, well-crafted development. I'm sure this was a hurdle in the Doctorow short story, as well, although in that literary form so much is left to the reader's imagination that I suspect a great deal of the gaps are filled in. A movie is more literal, so the demands of making this "real" are likely higher. And that makes it all the more impressive how successful the effort is.
The movie was written & directed by Robin Swicord who wrote the screenplays for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Matilda, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Little Women, among others, and both wrote and directed The Jane Austen Book Club. (She also wrote a charming little film, Shag, that oddly enough I wrote the presskit for back in my dark days in PR.)
By the way, among her other credits, she co-produced Matilda, Little Women and the actress (and writer) Zoe Kazan.
Because of the psychologically claustrophobic nature of the story -- even though a lot of it does not take place in the garage attic -- this is a difficult film to capture properly in a trailer. But I thought they did a solid job, given the inherent hurdles.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor