Welcome to Marwen feels more disjointed than its heroic dolls. Starting off the year with what is possibly one of the most difficult films to critique. I'm sure Zemeckis had the best intentions when directing/writing this drama, a director who has become inconsistent as of late, and certain experimental aspects do work. Unfortunately though, his portrayal of pain and the delicately positioned doll fantasy comes across as overly sentimental and prevents us from emotionally connecting with this extraordinary human being. A victim of hate crime who suffers from PTSD is unable to remember his past self and decides to photograph a fictional story that resides in a doll's town that he built as a coping mechanism. I was tossing and turning last night as I attempted to settle on one of two ratings. Why? Because there were an equal amount of elements that did work compared to those that failed. Zemeckis is an innovator. For his new film, he creatively integrates a fictional fantasy involving doll versions of Monáe, Mann, Christie and more. The conceptual story that Mark vividly imagines is one that integrates rather well with reality. His fascination with women's shoes, the "women of Marwen" and who they represent, the reasoning for the involvement of Nazi officers and how Deja Thoris acts as an reminder of Mark's pain (physically representing the pills he takes). The problem is that Mark's beautifully visualised story feels more engrossing than his own life, to which it should be the other way round.
Zemeckis forces you to sympathise with Mark, you have no choice but to feel empathy. Yet, there is a sense of reluctance. Zemeckis is old school, reminiscent of Spielberg, but he is unable to evolve from typical Hollywood filmmaking which in effect has made Mark's story extremely "Hollywoodised". Silvestri's score is either too upbeat or too somber. Everyone talks to Mark in a condescending manner, treating him as if he was a young boy. The unusual blend of excessive melodrama and surprisingly explicit comedy. An absurd amount of narrative hand-holding, yet still lacking a personable backstory. And then concluding on Mark's rapid revelation that the pills are hurting him. PTSD is a painful mental disorder to experience where you want to assist those that suffer with it. Frustratingly, you don't want to help Mark, you just feel sorry for him instead. The narrative's tone is too sweet, absent of any emotional bite. However, I cannot deny the fact that I found this film to very watchable, despite disliking the way Mark's life was told. Carell's performance was excellent and was only hindered by Thompson and Zemeckis' lacklustre screenplay. The personality difference between Mark and Cap'n Hogie meant that he could showcase his acting talent. The supporting cast, whilst underused, were also good. Aside from Mann who was insufferably patronising. Zemeckis is a veteran behind the camera and utilises his great skills to seamlessly capture the exhilarating doll story and grant it a sense of scale in comparison to reality.
It's a conflicting film. The fantasy half works impeccably well whilst the realistic half embellishes its character study through melodramatic sentimentality. Problem is, they both rely on each other to create a successful integrated story, and it's just not there. Such a shame.