Friday, March 20, 2015

Walter: Movie Review

Tips too heavily to the drama side of quirky comedy.

Walter (Andrew J. West) believes his father is God. But he's not Jesus, that was some other guy. Walter has a great comedic premise but then takes itself too seriously for its own good. Walt, or Wally, or Walter, as different people call him by different names, is an emotionally-stilted awkward young man who takes his job (as son of God) telling people if they're going to Heaven or Hell very seriously. 2015

Directed by: Anna Mastro

Screenplay by: Paul Shoulberg

Starring: Andrew J. West, Justin Kirk

The comedy of the premise then gives way to the comedy of more stable and human-like co-workers. Walter works as a ticket taker at a cinema alongside his “friend” Vince (Milo Ventimiglia). Friend is a loose concept here as nobody knows Walter very well, and Vince's outgoing personality is very abrasive much to the chagrin of Walter. His mildy vulgar lines are very funny to us and very offensive to Walter. Walter is also in love with Kendall (Leven Rambin), but she's a concession stand worker and he is just a ticket taker, so talking to her isn't really an option. And they all essentially ignore their boss (Jim Gaffigan). Gaffigan's attempt to manage these guys provided the film with some good laughs.

After being introduced to Walter at his place of work (where he directs people to their admitted theater and then to the place of their after-life), he meets Greg (Justin Kirk). Problem is Greg is a ghost and has not yet been told whether he's going to Heaven or Hell, but Walter doesn't think anybody should know who he is, especially not ghosts. So now he needs a therapist (William H. Macy) and we have questions to answer.

Unfortunately the story that evolves out of that simply funny and clever opening is a family drama. It got serious. And I think the film was expecting the audience to form an emotional attachment to Walter so that we would care about his psychological well-being. Obviously Walter is not mentally stable, and I found the reason why and the roots to his problems to be a simple extraction from the bit of the back-story that Walter and Greg give us in disjointed scenes and flashbacks.

Walter's journey to good mental health is the ultimate focus of the film. But as both myself and therapist Dr. Corman (Macy) figured it out rather early, and Walter himself is not a relatable or empathetic person, his story is just too detached and the feel-good drama element falls short of the comedic heights envisioned with the premise.

All of the supporting actors had scenes with good laughs, except Virginia Madsen as Walter's mother since her insanity was left unexplained. Walter himself also had a complete journey from son of God to mere mortal. But Walter tips too heavily to the drama side of quirky comedy.

Similar Titles:

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn (2014) - The angry routine is dropped along with the comedy in favour of a heartfelt character drama.

The Voices (2014) - A dark comedy that veers too far into a messy horror-comedy.