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Judith El Zein
Walter Gary Benjamin works as a ticket-taker slash ticket-tearer at the local Cineplex. When Walter was ten years old he made a deal with God to judge the eternal fate of everyone he comes in contact with in exchange for his father going to Heaven. Walter manages his daily routine and his worrisome mother until the mysterious Greg shows up and forces Walter to confront the meaning of his life, and his future.Written by
Purple Bench Films
A ghost haunts a kid who eats only eggs. Would that make him a poultry-geist?
"Walter" is a movie for the wtf bin. If you like picking movies out of the wtf bin, then you're all set. With a plot as bizarre as the whimsy of Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich", "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") and a deadpan comedic presentation like something you might find Bill Murray in ("Groundhog Day", "Scrooged") and an artistic visual approach to everyday scenery ("Joe Vs the Volcano", "Buffalo '66"), this film is like an amalgamation of all the cool quirky flicks that exist under the radar. And yet it has a distinctly original vibe that sets it apart from the rest.
The plot in one sentence: A 20-something OCD nerd who could pass for Rain Man's younger brother is tasked with the surprisingly easy task of determining whether people go to heaven or hell, but when he gets snagged on a technicality (a lovably pesky ghost whom he can't seem to figure out), his meticulously structured life starts to come apart, prompting him to seek treatment from a therapist (William H Macy) who himself is just 1 session away from the looney bin. If I lost you, never fear, the plot isn't important. Although it certainly has its twists & turns and a well crafted mystery, the plot isn't as central as is the character development and deconstruction of our hero whose name is, you guessed it, "Walter".
Though the story is very surreal, supernatural and fantasy-like, the visual presentation is very realistic (no dazzling special effects or acid trip sequences) which fits perfectly. Walter's life, as bizarre as it is to us, is normal to him, mundane and ritualistic. So the low key camera work is appropriate, forsaking sight gags in lieu of subtle storytelling through symmetry, repetition, attention to detail and all those things Walter surrounds himself with. That is until Greg the ghost enters his life, and that's when things start getting a little weird.
Top notch acting by everyone on screen, from the complex Walter to the peripheral weirdos he works alongside at the movie theater, from the cynical & wacky therapist (Macy) to the rational & stoic ghost who seems to be the only sane character in the story, and all of this is glued together by Walter's 1 true lifeline to reality, his mother (Virginia Madsen) who seems to be dangling over the edge of a nervous breakdown the whole time.
"Walter" made me laugh out loud a few times, but you shouldn't expect a comedy. It's really more of a quirky drama along the lines of a Terry Gilliam film ("Brazil", "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas") but with a more indie approach. Aside from broad similarities to the cult classics I've mentioned, there aren't too many flicks that compare. But it reminded me of the unknown gems "Little Sister" (about an ex-goth girl turned nun who returns to her backwoods hometown), "Dark Mind" (a more serious and visually stylish thriller about the complexities of a paranoid agoraphobe), and an awesome Italian flick "The Ferpect Crime" (about a guy trapped in the women's section of a department store and somehow he meets a ghost or two). Yes, "Walter" may proudly take its place smack dab in the middle of the coveted wtf bin. The world needs more flicks like this.
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