There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.
After a tragic incident outside a local bar, Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) has been unable to put his life back together. He was beaten—nearly to death—for being different. All of his memories were beaten out of him, and it took a long time before he was even able to walk again. While he has recovered enough to walk, all memories from his past will be forgotten forever. Fortunately, he is surrounded by women that care about him.
Mark is an artist who takes pictures of dolls in realistic, World War II scenarios. He calls his imaginary world "Marwen", a town that is led by Cap’n Hoagie (Steve Carell), and consists of the various female dolls who are inspired by the real-world women who have helped Mark through his tough times. Marwen is the subject of Mark’s art, but it also serves as a cathartic escape from his real-word problems. He dives into this fictitious world—which has a number of similarities to his own—to escape, but with a parole hearing for his attackers coming up, Mark will have to force himself to face his demons if he wants justice be served.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
Steve Carell (+10pts)
The Heels (-5pts)
Marwen & The Nazis (+5pts)
The Women of Marwen (-4pts)
The Visual Effects (+5pts)
Pro: Steve Carell (+10pts)
I had high hopes for this movie, and while a lot of it disappointed me, Steve Carell’s performance did not. He did a magnificent job showing his character’s inner struggle, and he really made me sympathize with the character. There were aspects of this character that were not relatable—which I will dive into later—but Steve Carell’s performance was enough to keep me invested in the character. He was not the most relatable character on paper, but Steve Carell's performance made me care about him anyway.
I felt really bad for the guy. He was tormented by the memories of the beating, but he was still searching for love and he was hopeful for it. Steve Carell made his name through mastering comedic roles, but he continues to impress audiences in his dramatic roles as well. This was one such dramatic role, and it was yet another impressive performance by the talented actor.
Con: The Heels (-5pts)
Mark Hogancamp was not your average man. He was not your average man because he liked to wear women’s heels. My problem was not with this character, because he wore heels. My problem was with the fact that the filmmakers gave this aspect of the character a lot of focus, which I thought ultimately made him unrelatable.
Did I still feel bad for the guy? Of course, but I did not share his passion for wearing heels, so I did not understand some of of this movie's more dramatic moments. I still sympathized with him, and I still wanted to see the story go his way, but part of the story’s impact was lost because I could not fully relate to the main character. This character trait would have been fine if it was addressed, but not focused on so heavily. Unfortunately that was not the case, and while I was still rooting for the guy, I had a tough time connecting with this part of his story, a part that—again—got a lot of focus.
Pro: Marwen & The Nazis (+5pts)
I liked the town of Marwen and I liked the role the Nazi characters played in that story, as I liked that everything in the town symbolized some aspect of Mark’s life. The town of Marwen consisted of all the women that were there for Mark at the lowest point of his life, and the town kept getting attacked by a group of Nazis—which represented the group of men that beat Mark so brutally. They always defended the town, but the Nazis always came back, which represented Mark’s constant internal struggle with the beating, as well as his dependency on the women in his life to help him through it. I liked what all of it symbolized, but it was honestly just fun to explore Marwen.
Cap’n Hoagie was everything Mark wished he was. He was strong, confident, and brave. This created an entertaining contrast between the two characters—if you can even call them two different characters. The constant battles with Nazis also helped prevent the movie from feeling too slow and uneventful, as whenever the movie started slowing down and getting overly dramatic, there was always a cheesy Nazi battle right around the corner. I wish there were more obvious connections between the real world storyline and the Marwen storyline, but the metaphors were all there if you are willing to look for them, and I had a decent time doing so myself.
Con: The Women of Marwen (-4pts)
This was one of the story’s weaker areas, in my opinion. We knew the women of Marwen had helped Mark tremendously, but we got very little time with any of them. All of the filmmaker’s focus—with respect to the women—went toward Roberta, Nicol and Deja. I will mention my issues with Nicol later, and Deja was a character that did not represent any real person. Deja represented something else entirely—that I do not want to spoil—but giving so much focus to her and Nicol meant that we did not get much screentime learning about the women who actually helped Mark.
The one woman of Marwen that I thought was done right, was Roberta. We got to see this character’s relationship with Mark and how much she cared about him. Unfortunately, Roberta was the exception, not the rule. There were five other women of Marwen who we learned almost nothing about. Spending less time with Nicol in order to develop the other women of Marwen would have made the movie, and the women’s role in it, a lot more meaningful.
Pro: The Visual Effects (+5pts)
Visually, this movie was truly unlike any other. A lot of screen time was spent in Marwen with the doll versions of these characters. The dolls all looked exactly like their real-world counterparts and the detail was something special. It was all CGI and, even though the characters looked entirely like live-action toys, the filmmakers were still able to capture all the facial expressions of the performers. It was an interesting story, but the visual effects were truly unique, and they had me glued to the screen whenever the story jumped back into Marwen.
Con: Nicol (-5pts)
Of all the women in Marwen, this was the one that got the most focus, and I thought the movie suffered for this decision. Did the filmmakers focus on any of the women who helped Mark through his tragedy? No, they focused on a women who Mark developed a crush on, and they forced us to sit through some truly awkward scenes. Do I believe that Mark grew from his friendship with Nicol? Yes, but I felt that the other women of Marwen were far more deserving of the story’s focus. Focusing on the other women—even a little—would have created a more inspirational, and heartbreaking, story. Instead, the filmmakers gave us an awkward one by focusing on Nicol.
Grade: B- (81pts)
My expectations for this movie were pretty high, and while I still did not think it was bad, it did leave me pretty disappointed. I was disappointed because I know it could have been much better. Steve Carell is known for his comedy, but he has been consistently knocking dramatic performances out of the park, and this was one such performance. The movie also had an interesting story and one-of-kind visual effects. However, like I said, I was disappointed with the direction of the story.
Mark’s obsession with heels was something that made him unrelatable as a main protagonist, due to how much focus this obsession got. The filmmakers also decided to give little focus to the women of Marwen who helped Mark overcome his tragedy, and they instead decided to focus to Mark’s awkward obsession with Nicol. There was an interesting story here. Unfortunately, I thought the filmmakers did a lousy job of telling it. They seemed to focus on the more awkward and more unrelatable aspects of the main character, while glossing over the more inspirational and more impactful ones. Steve Carell was still fascinating, the visual effects were still unlike anything I have seen before, and the time spent in Mark’s fantasy town was still entertaining. The movie simply could have been a lot better than it was.