HOLLYWOOD—If you’ve seen the trailer for the movie “Welcome to Marwen” it looks like an interesting movie to say the least, but be warned it’s not what you think. This tale based on a true story chronicles the challenges that World War II veteran Mark Hogancamp endured as a result of his post-traumatic stress disorder and being assaulted by a group of individuals after he discloses too much information.
The one thing I have to say is that “Marwen” has plenty of heart, it’s just trying to wrap your head around the narrative is problematic at times. Steve Carell’s tackles the role of Hogancamp, and he does a fine job as the character. Carell, who is known for his comedy, has really stepped up his game in the dramatic arena with unforgettable roles in movies like “Foxtrot,” “Beautiful Boy” and the dramedy “Vice.”
Hogancamp has created this fictional world to deal with his trauma and to grapple with his emotions, and I cannot see any other actor able to bring a level of charm and vulnerability to a character besides Carell. Mark has created a world where he utilizes dolls to navigate his life. Many of the dolls the audience encounters in the fictional world of Marwen are actual people Mark interact with on a daily basis. Those characters include Nicol (Leslie Mann), Deja (Diane Kruger), Roberta (Merritt Weaver), Julie (Janelle Monae), Caralala (Eiza Gonzalez) and Anna (Gwendoline Christie).
The movie has a superstar cast of actors, so it’s not lacking talent, but the movie’s decision to juxtapose from jumping to doll world to real-life is difficult at times to synthesize with. Just as you become enamored with the real-life of these characters, we jump into a world while interesting to watch fails to deliver the same emotional reaction from the viewer. You sympathize with Mark and his plight, and watching that courtroom scene where Mark finally confronts his accusers is powerful and a significant moment in the film’s climax.
The movie has a way of empowering people, but rather it can connect with all audiences is a question to ponder. In Mark’s world, he is a titan; he is the king of his ship. He is confident and not afraid to stand his ground. All that confidence disappears when he is forced to return to reality. The movie touches on Mark’s fetish for women’s shoes, which ultimately leads to his attack, but it’s not a story that is well fleshed out. It seems to be a pivotal part of Mark’s life, but the movie doesn’t address it fully and that gap creates problems in the narrative and fully fleshing out Mark’s character entirely and why he reacts and heaves the way he does.
Director Robert Zemeckis who is known for such captivating dramas like “Forest Gump,” “Cast Away” and “Flight” fails to deliver a script that is full encompassing. Watching this movie, I wanted much more, and I think the fact that the movie treads lightly on the subject matter prevents it from reaching its fullest potential; a drama that not only has plenty of heart, but one that exposes the good, the bad and the real ugliness that Mark Hogancamp encountered during his lifetime.