“Welcome to Marwen” is a film directed by the usually reliable and interesting Robert Zemeckis and stars Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Diane Kruger, and Janelle Monae. Zemeckis co-wrote this script with Caroline Thompson.
It’s a shame I did not enjoy this film more since I generally look forward to a Zemeckis project. The film is based on the story of an artist named Mark Hogancamp who was attacked and beaten nearly to death by five men in an ill-advised run-in at a local bar. Instead of conventional PTSD therapy, Hogancamp creates a world made out of dollhouses and engages in fantasies with the use of various dolls as some escape into a fantasy world where he is a World War II fighter pilot aided by a group of women based on those Hogancamp knows in the real world. The dolls seemingly take on a life of their own, and Hogancamp finds his fantasy world blurring and interfering with his real life. He makes his living photographing various scenes in this miniature village with the use of his village. Of course, lots of symbolism keeps coming up. To add to his troubles, the sentencing hearing for the attackers is coming up, and the prosecutor believes it to be imperative that Hogancamp provide his impact statement in order to help ensure a more appropriate sentence. He also has an art showing to prepare for as well. A pretty new neighbor moves across the street who could be a catalyst for Hogancamp to make strides in his recovery.
The basic idea for the story was interesting enough, but it was not executed all that well, with the exception of the visual effects. The constant shift to the Marwen fantasy was at times intrusive, frustrating me when some interesting developments were starting to emerge in the real world events. I also had some trouble buying in a prosecutor putting such weight on a victim of a violent crime as if an impact statement could really influence the severity of the sentence. I am not sure that victim impact testimonies really have that much influence on the harshness of the sentence imposed as was suggested in this film. It was not clear as if the bad guys lost at trial or entered some kind of plea deal. If there was a trial, Hogancamp would have testified during that. It just didn’t make sense and troubled me more after I left the theater and ruminated on the nonsense of it all.
Carell is a fine actor and did his best here. I can’t really find much significant fault with the performances, but the writing and editing fall short. The film does not flow very well and shifts between Marwen and the real world are pretty jarring.
Also, the attackers were represented as Nazi dolls, which is a little overused these days. This film is said to have been based on a true story, but it is one of those where it is absurdly easy to sense that a boatload of creative license was utilized.
The overall talents of Robert Zemeckis and Steven Carell can be indisputable, however this particular offering turns out to not be a very example of those gifts for which both are known.