The Living Wake (2010)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
"The Living Wake" is a dark comedy set in a timeless storybook universe. Self-proclaimed artist and genius, K. Roth Binew (Mike O'Connell), has one day to live. He has enlisted his best and only friend, Mills Joquin (Jesse Eisenberg), to take him around on a bicycle powered rickshaw. In a final attempt to probe life's deepest mysteries, Binew endures one ridiculous trial after the next. He concludes his day with a final performance, his living wake. On a makeshift stage in an open field, Binew's friends and enemies gather to witness his madness one final time. … More
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as K. Roth Binew/Passer...
as Mills Joquin
as Lampert Binew
as Alma Binew
as Moustache Man
as Dr. Schoenberg
as Gypsy Psychic
as Gypsy Psychic
as Christian Man #1
as Christian Man #1
as Christian Man #2
as Old Man
as Clock Maker
as Karl Binew
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Critic Reviews for The Living Wake
In all, it's a peculiar piece of absurdist entertainment that occupies a singular niche in American indie cinema.
In the end, however, pic defies all categorization, joining a small pantheon of pics including "Withnail & I" and Peter Greenaway's "Drowning byNumbers" that whistle past the graveyard with aplomb.
Sol Tryon's The Living Wake seems but a protracted act of stultifying self-indulgence -- but then maybe that's the point.
Strains to accommodate its daft premise and pontificating lead.
This is a terminally whimsical vanity project that would probably have been a chore to sit through even in its original intended format, a 20-minute stage monologue.
Audience Reviews for The Living Wake
An eccentric with a mysterious, fatal illness spends the last day of his life searching for his father who will deliver a "brief but powerful monologue" about life's purpose.
Half of this film begs us to take it seriously, as though it has something profound and original to say about life and death, and the other half avoids any serious consideration in favor of broad and over-the-top comedy. The result is a mixed bag that falls short in both goals.
The film's energy comes from the lead performance by Mike O'Connell; the set must not have had craft service because he chews the scenery like a starving orphan. The character K. Roth Binew is written to be larger than life, but O'Connell makes him even larger. I found myself wishing that Binew could have been played by Albert Finney, channeling his Big Fish character. Jesse Eisenberg is wonderful as Binew's eternally faithful and loyal assistant, a thankless character that Eisenberg mines for gold.
Overall, despite O'Connell's over-the-top performance, there are a lot of little parts, moments of philosophical truth, that make this film worth watching even if the whole is inconsistent and flawed.
Cast: Mike O'Connell, Jesse Eisenberg, Jim Gaffigan, Ann Dowd, Eddie Pepitone, Diane Kagan, Matthew Cowles, Jill Larson, Kurt Haas
Director: Sol Tryon
Summary: When his doctor informs him he'll die soon from an unnamed disease, self-proclaimed artist K. Roth Binew (Mike O'Connell) -- who's never completed a work of art -- decides to celebrate his life with a party in this absurdist black comedy. As poet and biographer Mills Joaquin (Jesse Eisenberg) drives him around in a bicycle-powered rickshaw, New delivers invitations for the wake that will occur that evening.
My Thoughts: "Quite the odd, quirky, artsy, and original film. The main character was a bit ridiculous and over the top, but again quite enjoyable to watch as he rambled on. It is a movie that stands on its own, haven't seen anything quite like it before which is always a good and bad thing. Some people won't like it and other's will. I enjoyed it for most parts. Of course the ending was the best part for me. Very dramatic and I loved the song."
For the record, K. Roth Binew(Mike O'Connell, who also co-wrote the script) is not a relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers. Rather, he is a writer/poet/former mental patient, whose father(Jim Gaffigan) abandoned him before he could teach him the secret of the one great monologue, and has been diagnosed with an unnamed/vague/fatal disease. On his final day on this planet, he is accompanied as always by Mills(Jesse Eisenberg), his man/chauffeur/biographer, to hand out invitations to his wake that night, starting with his belligerent neighbor Reginald(Eddie Pepitone). Sadly, the viking funeral is not an option at the undertakers, so he visits a prostitute(Colombe Jacobsen-Derstine) to cheer himself up.
"The Living Wake" is a movie undone by too much quirkiness when less would have been more and that especially applies to the character of K. Roth Binew who just never shuts up. A much better approach would have been to pull the camera back to show the world in relation to him. A key example would have been in the scene with the prostitute which should have had a wider frame in showing both the sex and Mills taking notes simultaneously, emphasizing how he tilts the axis of the world just a little towards the strange. Just because Binew is intent on telling his own story(and isn't that Mills' job anyway?) does not mean that the movie has to play into the narcissism of the character unless the filmmakers are maybe narcissists themselves? That being said, the climax is definitely moving, even if it is too little too late.
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