Gilbert Speaks On “Wakefield” A 2016 Dark Comedy

5 Apr


Do you ever wish that you could disappear from your life? If that seems too severe, then how about hiding from life while still having the capability to spy on your loved ones. No, I’m not talking about ghostly observers, although in “Wakefield” our protagonist is behaving like a spirit. Did Robin Swicord’s film that was based on E.L. Doctorow’s book and inspired by Nathanial Hawthorne’s 1835 story make it into my “Granny’s Insomnia Collection?” Meet me after the jump to find out.


There are some stories that stick with you forever, and Swicord’s Wakefield is one of them. The film which stars Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner is a cautionary tale about the dangers of withdrawing from the day to day routines of normal life. We live in a chaotic world and we are overwhelmed by the constant achieving of schedules and obligations. I know I’m not the only one who has considered forsaking everything and living like a hermit. Luckily for our friends and family, these thoughts remain daydreams, but what if???


Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) is a successful man. He has a great paying job as a lawyer along with a beautiful wife, two daughters, and a huge house in the suburbs. What else could he ask for. Beautiful possessions don’t come easy, and we have to run at full speed on that hamster wheel to keep those possessions, Howard knows this only too well, and yet, after a rather routine day at a routine job, he is faced with a dilemma. Should he keep up the boring routines, or stop existing.

Howard’s wife, Diana (Jennifer Garner) was a former ballet dancer, but is now an art curator. Their sex life was fueled with little flirtatious games, where Howard would pretend he was jealous in order to pick a fight with Diana; a fight that would later lead to passionate makeup sex. But even those flirtatious games become routine after fifteen years of marriage.


One day, Howard, comes home from work a little earlier than normal and sees a raccoon entering the garage across from the house. He chases the raccoon into the attic over the garage. The attic is filled with all kinds of junk. Howard is sitting at the window of the attic watching Diana making dinner while Taylor (Victoria Bruno) and Giselle (Ellery Sprayberry) tell their mother about their day. Howard can’t hear the conversation, but has fun injecting in his own comments. When his wife calls his cell because he is running late for dinner, Howard ignores the calls. Although Howard’s intention was to go home after everyone had gone to bed, he falls asleep in the attic. Thinking that his wife will not believe he spent the night in the garage attic, Howard remains in the attic until Diana goes to work. Things get way out of control, and instead of going to work, Diana calls the police.


Bryan Cranston is absolutely marvelous at portraying his Howard as a self-centered man, who may have narcissistic tendencies. When he sees Diana crying because she fears her husband may have been kidnapped or worse, dead, Howard shows no mercy. As a father, there is even less of a connection.

Howard has become a living spirit. He is like the deceased who enjoy watching unobserved, as the living go through their daily lives. He only comes out of the attic when everyone is gone from the house in order to scavenge for food. He lives the life of a street person except in his in his own garage. Like the unfortunates who life on the streets, Howard’s condition is self-inflicted and it’s his choice to go without the comforts of a bathroom, clean clothing and heat.


The months pass by and all Howard can do is look for his wife to do something wrong to validate his continued absence. When an old boyfriend of Diana’s shows up to offer his condolences (Howard is now considered a missing person by the police) Howard gets jealous. He’s afraid that Diana will rekindle the relationship with Dirk (Jason O’Mara). Howard is even jealous of a co-worker who does make a play for Diana, but even the jealousy that he experiences through that attic window doesn’t get Howard to come back into the fold.


“Wakefield” is definitely going into my collection. We watch as Howard goes from a self-centered obnoxious man who doesn’t care about the trauma he’s caused his family, to a man who finally understands what love and life entail. Howard finally gives up on his hermit life and decides to reunite with his family. But will they be ready to welcome him back? This is a dark comedy that will have you wondering what would your life be like without you in it.

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