Welcome to Marwen
When I first read about the incredible story Mark Hogencamp, I was intrigued to see this film as the trailer made it look like a heartwarming film. I have yet to see Marwencol and still do plan on seeing it. While there are passages in the film that I quite enjoyed, I think the weird balance between real life and fantasy elements detracts from the emotional story when the film needs its focus. Steve Carell is great in this but I feel he is let down but a unbalanced film.
The film is about the true story of Mark Hogencamp. He was violently beaten and left for dead in a hate crime, when he admitted to wearing women’s shoes. This beating erased his memory of his previous life and having been a former writer, he could not do so any longer. He then shifts his focus to creating a world in WW II era Belgium, with dolls that represent real characters in his life. The town he creates is called Marwen and he uses this fantasy world he created as trauma therapy to tell the story of what happened to him.
The film has the story made for an emotional drama. However, the constant intercutting between real life and Marwen really take away from the emotional experience. I think Robert Zemeckis tried to make an innovative film from a story that was inspiring however its drama gets lost in the process of committing too much to the doll life. It really messes with the tone of a film that doesn’t know whether it should commit to being a drama or a comedy.
The film also doesn’t explore the characters in the story enough primarily Wendy and the other women of Marwen that the dolls are based on. It just feels like a choppy screenplay that could have worked had it not been distracted and trying to balance two different types of film. Steve Carell is as committed as ever, as he has recently shown that he can prosper in dramatic roles on top of his usual comedic ones. He’s just let down by a film that had the ability to be better.