I’ve wanted to see Welcome To Marwen for a while, it looked stunning, though I confess I knew little of the movie other than what the trailers conveyed.
I am glad I watched it and I’m annoyed at not having seen it sooner. Welcome To Marwen is a hugely entertaining, heartfelt movie, based on the true story of Mark Hogancamp.
Hogancamp, Steve Carell (“Vice“, “The Big Short“), is badly beaten by a group of men outside his local bar one night because he proclaimed he liked wearing women’s shoes. He was beaten so badly that they knock all of his memories out of him from before the fight.
Lucky to be alive, when Hogancamp returned home, he finds he used to be a great illustrator and also had an extensive collection of women’s high-heels. So badly was he beaten though, that now he can’t even write his own name.
Hogancamp finds solace in Marwen, a fictional town he’s created in Belgium during World War II. A town he has created in his garden, filled with dolls and houses. He creates dolls of the people he’s met since being injured and creates stories that involve them and his alter ego, Cap’n Hogie.
When he gets a new neighbour, in the form of Nicol, Leslie Mann (“ParaNorman“, “Knocked Up”), his adventures go from killing Nazi’s to falling in love, though sometimes Hogancamp struggles to differentiate the scenes he’s making from real life.
Welcome To Marwen is written by Robert Zemeckis (“Back To The Future”, “Polar Express”), who also directs, and Caroline Thompson (“Corpse Bride”, “The Addams Family”).
Zemeckis has truly pulled it out of the bag with this. The directing is stunning, there’s no other way to put it. And the story, how it seamlessly blends from real-life to the action figures, is just mind-blowing.
Zemeckis flows from one story to the next, interweaving and mingling like it’s no biggie. The figures look stunning, the level of detail is remarkable, and it adds enough of a hint of realism to what, at first, is quite a surreal situation.
The story is lovely and full of warmth and at the heart of it all is a stellar performance from Carell who treats the whole thing with kid gloves but keeps it away from turning to saccharine.
As the date of the court case, to send Hogancamp’s attackers down, his panic attacks worsen and his action figure storyline begins to merge with the real world, Zemeckis making this all true real. Carell performs admirably as Hogancamp swings from mood-to-mood, situation to situation.
If there’s a problem with the film, it lies in the fact that Hogancamp is obviously a damaged man by the attack. His fragile state of mind that has caused him to build this world, this world where he attempts to mould women into the way he wants them, only ever feels like it’s lightly touched upon.
Carell does wonders and it feels like he’s attempting to get under the skin of the man, but Zemeckis puts the effects and stunning stereo sound at the forefront instead. I’m torn because, on the one hand, the effects are stunning, the sound is amazing, the blend of reality and Marwen is brilliant.
On the other, this is the story of a man who had an horrific experience, one that he is lucky to be alive from, and yet most of the time we just see him in various states of panic with a quite sudden turn to remedy it all.
Watch Welcome To Marwen for the stunning effects and wonderful mixing of realities, but then watch the documentary Marwencol and get the true story of this remarkable man.