Welcome to Marwen Review: The Most Disappointing Movie of 2018

There was no film in 2018 I anticipated more than Welcome to Marwen. Based on a true story, Welcome to Marwen tells the story of Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell), an artist who suffers from PTSD after being assaulted by a group of Neo-Nazis. Having lost his memory and ability to draw from the attack, he now lives out his life through a fictional village he created in his backyard called Marwen. Marwen, a mock WWII-era Belgian village, serves as a place for Mark to project his life experiences. This includes the many women of Marwen, who protect Mark’s fictional version of himself Captain Hogie from the occupying Nazis.

As Mark must soon face the reality of his torment, he uses Marwen and his characters to help cope, for better or worse.

To my utter amazement, Welcome to Marwen turned out to be one of the least compelling, boring, and melodramatic films I’ve seen in a while. How could a film with such a unique and heartfelt premise be such a box office bomb? Well, I’ll tell you.

For starters, Welcome to Marwen attempts to overexplain and describe the story instead of showing it. Exposition is lazily shoved in the audience’s face in the form of monologues, obvious dialogue, and even old photographs in Mark’s/Steve Carell’s scrapbooks. Several characters practically look at the screen and address the audience as they nonchalantly deliver exposition. Because of this we don’t get to fully experience a lot of pivotal events in the life of Mark which makes it harder to relate to him. The whole film is building up to a courtroom confrontation between Mark and his bigoted assailants, and what was meant to be a satisfying conclusion was rushed and left me feeling discontent.

All this overexplaining leads a lot of the symbolism in the movie, which is sprinkled throughout the entire picture, to feel on the nose and rather pointless to the viewer. Overlying themes of courage, addiction, and accepting those who are different beat you over the head so hard you’ll have to check for bruises when you leave the theater.

Welcome to Marwen’s plot was sappy and often confused in what emotions they wanted the audience to feel. Dramatically sad moments are undercut by awkwardly humorous ones. Scenes meant to evoke panic or fear have hammy acting and include inappropriate music swelling. The best example of this is when Kurt (the ex-boyfriend of Mark’s neighbor Nicol) mistakes him as a Nazi sympathizer and proceeds to harass him. The scene was intended to be suspenseful, but everything from the hokey acting to the soundtrack made it unintentionally funny.

And at the center of this mess is a story worth telling, and an actor/ director combo that should’ve been a match made in heaven. Carell has done some great dramatic work (The Big Short and Foxcatcher) and Zemeckis has made many iconic American movies (like Back to the Future and Forrest Gump).

Sadly, Welcome to Marwen is a testament to what happens when filmmakers get lazy and indulge in excesses. Having your drama movie be too whimsical and sentimental makes it sappy and far-fetched. Too much exposition leads the audience to not care about the characters. And too much forced symbolism mixed with melodramatic acting makes a mockery of the inspiring story the film is based on.

If you want a condensed, captivating version of Welcome to Marwen that gets the point across without being too overdramatic, just go watch the trailer. This was without a doubt the most disappointing film of 2018.

The Verdict: D-

-Zachary Flint

The Big Short Review

One film I had the pleasure of viewing recently is The Big Short.

The Big Short stars Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, and many others as a bunch economists who predicted the housing market crash of 2007-2008. So to their benefit, each decides to bet large sums of money against the housing market and make millions of dollars. The film follows each of these characters separately, giving us a somewhat fictionalized interpretation of real people and events. The audience slowly sees our protagonists come to the realization of just how corrupt the system is.

We also have a narrator played by Ryan Gosling, who frequently talks directly to the audience. This outward acknowledgment of the audience is the something I really liked in this film. Even though things are very serious through most of the story, it still keeps a little humorous with Gosling. He says some pretty outrageous things and keeps the comic relief at an appropriate level.

The Big Short manages to take complex topics (like the housing bubble or CDO’s) and make them easy to understand for the average viewer. This is all done in a very comical way. The narrator will break the fourth wall, address the audience directly on how the topic is boring to explain, then cut to someone famous describing it. For example, at one point during the film the narrator cuts to chef Anthony Bourdain to explain some complex economic theory while cooking in the kitchen.

One of my favorite parts about The Big Short is its moral ambiguity. Our protagonists are betting to make a whole lot of money, yet at the expense of the American people. If the protagonists are correct, that would mean the loss of homes, retirement money, and savings accounts. And since they would be profiting off the loss of the American middle class, does that make them any better than the corrupt bankers? The Big Short really makes you think.

The film periodically edits in cuts of current pop culture. Little images or quick videos relevant to 2007. I think these are pretty unique and really help to set the tone for the film. These edits get a whole lot more effective when, towards the end of The Big Short,  they show real footage of the recession that the housing market crash helped cause. We see many images of people now homeless, with their belongings tossed onto the street. Its all very emotional stuff.

Over everything, this is a film that made me feel. That is what I liked The Big Short as much as I did. It pissed me off knowing that the bankers didn’t receive any sort of punishment for their greed. It made me sad knowing the horrible results of the housing market crash. The Big Short moved me in a way unique to that of other flicks.

I recommend The Big Short to anyone who likes fictional interpretations of true events. I feel more enlightened on the topic of the recent U. S. recession, as well as even more empathetic towards those affected by it. The Big Short is a film that will make you think, feel, and care. Definitely go check it out.

The Verdict: A-

-Zachary Flint