Critic Consensus: Thanks to a committed, powerhouse performance by Bryan Cranston, Wakefield is a fascinating character study of a decidedly unpleasant character.
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Critic Reviews for Wakefield
Uneventful and dull to look at, the film adapts a short story by E.L. Doctorow that probably should have stayed on the page.
Cranston cranks his performance up to 11, enamored of his own work and incapable of hitting the brakes. And yet he never brings his character's conflicting motives to life.
It isn't the dull midlife crisis movie it initially presents itself as. But it also doesn't do enough to lurch into more nightmarish territory.
What a fine performance by Jennifer Garner, playing a character we see almost totally through the filter of her husband's viewpoint.
Working from her own screenplay, director Robin Swicord delivers a film that balances wry humor and sly introspection.
Audience Reviews for Wakefield
Have you ever felt so jaded that you said, "This is not my beautiful wife. This is not my beautiful house. What am I doing here?" Let it be known that my mind is effectively blown because, for the first time in the history of movie cliches, the makers of Wakefield didn't use that heavy-handed Talking Heads song to tell the audience that that is exactly what Mr. Wakefield is asking himself throughout the film. In the timeless and untimely tradition of American Beauty, Wakefield follows the emotional exploits of a rich, white dude going through his mid-life crisis in a quirky manner. This time, Bryan Cranston takes his turn at acting put upon. He decides to teach all of his loved ones a lesson by purposely making himself a missing person while observing their reactions from the confines of his garage attic. It's hard not to compare it to the other mid-life crisis film this year, Brad's Status. That film is an insipid bore because the protagonist is a pathetic, oblivious narcissist who narrates to himself all of the time, but this movie is slightly more compelling because the protagonist is an affluent sociopath with delusions of enlightenment...who narrates to himself all of the time. It's interesting, in as much as watching people with mental problems is entertaining. As for learning any great truths from this thought experiment, to abandon those who love you to see how important you actually are, you might be better off just staying at home. That is, if you aren't a white, male sociopath going through a mid-life crisis.
Once again another great performance from Bryan Cranston. His character is not entirely pleasant and that keeps you watching. This is kind of a modern day take on movies such as It's a Wonderful Life that teach you to be grateful for what you have when you take it all for granted.
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