In the film, "Wake", the fateful reunion of four brothers quickly dissolves into a night of drinking, deceit, perversions, and death. They don't realize until it is too late that the party ...
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In the film, "Wake", the fateful reunion of four brothers quickly dissolves into a night of drinking, deceit, perversions, and death. They don't realize until it is too late that the party they are having is, in fact, a wake. Written by
I saw the movie at the Queens International Film Festival. I thought it was excellent - atmospheric, beautifully photographed (though the digital projection at the festival was a bit dark), well edited, superbly acted across the board, and (this was an added bonus) well scored. The movie begins with Landau's voiceover (we see him as he types) writing a story of the flashback events. I must say, the prose in his bookend scenes was a bit flowery, and even contained an obvious pronoun error (in fact, I believe there's a moment in later dialogue when Blake Gibbons's grammar is corrected by Dihlon McManne, and McManne - the younger version of Landau - is wrong then too). Finch's script was much better in the the more important departments of dialogue, character, plot, pacing, etc., where it was truly fine.
The premise is that one of four brothers, an escaped con (Raymond), has chosen the family house to rendezvous with his accomplice brother Jack (who brings along a couple of party girls for the road) and abscond with some ill-gotten money. They happen to arrive on the night that the eldest - Sebastian - plans to euthanise their cancer-ridden mother with drugs he has persuaded the youngest brother Kyle to supply. All the acting was wonderful (and it helped that the parts were uniformly wonderful). The characters were each dysfunctional in different ways. The brother who has stayed with the mother to hold it all together (Dihlon McManne) is a weakling; Jack (John Philbrick) is an amoral, sadistic loser; Raymond (Blake Gibbons) is caught between good and evil, a cunning but stupid con man with both a genuine family affection and a sadistic, controlling, larcenous streak.
Kyle, the youngest (Gale Harold) is really the strongest of the four (he has quit alcohol and drugs and holds a job), and the best (he never quite gets away from his best instincts, whatever the provocation). He's also the most damaged (Raymond comes in second). He is haunted by the horrific family past, and he take prescription drugs - apparently to deal with some form of schizophrenia. As the haunted one, he experiences terrible flashbacks brought on by the appearance of Raymond and Jack. It's a very dark film, but very compelling. You have to pay attention to it, and that makes it a real moviegoing experience, where the dark theatre and absence of distractions keep you intent on it. I would really recommend that your first exposure to it be in a theatre rather than on TV or a DVD (unless you watch the DVD on your hard drive from your computer chair).
I want to mention finally that the music by Henry LeRoy Finch and Chris Anderson is very good and atmospheric, and that it is augmented by some original songs by a folksinger/songwriter named Ramsey Midwood, with whom I am not familiar. I have made a note to myself to look for an album of his, because the songs were terrific. Very literate folk songs, a bit like Tom Waits's stuff. I have only one quibble, apart from the flowery prose of the elder Sebastian (McManne/Landau), which is that I didn't need the early exteriors of Raymond and Kyle on their way to the house. I already knew the brothers were coming, and it would have been better to see McManne going about his routine, and get more of a sense of how isolated he was there with the uncommunicative, dying mother. However, the footage of Gale Harold tearing down wooded roads on his motorcycle is something some of you may be glad to see.
How is Gale Harold? Excellent technically, as is everybody - especially Blake Gibbons - but he brings to it all the depth and complexity he brings to everything else. And though he's a mess, and gets messier, there just isn't any way to keep him from being beautiful. And that works for the script, because Kyle has a goodness that none of this ghastly family has ever quite been able to kill, and that at least two of his brothers recognize and, in their own ways, cherish. John Philbrick's Jack is the most unredeemed and unsympathetic, but not the scariest. That's Blake Gibbons's Raymond, who is alternately scary, appalling, and strangely sympathetic. I don't agree with the previous contributor that the Raymond character ought to have been the center of the film, however. He's interesting at all times, but Gale Harold's character is one of those doomed angels - deeply damaged by past events that Blake Gibbons's Raymond doesn't even seem to remember very well. And Harold is simply hypnotic in the part.
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