Running Time: 96 Minutes
Director: Robin Swicord
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Garner. Beverly D’Angelo, Jason O’Mara & Pippa Bennett-Warner
Acting on an impulse, a successful New York lawyer decides to leave his family and hide in the attic above his own garage, at the same time spying on how their lives go on without him in the picture.
It feels like we are about to watch Moonlighting or Wall Street when the 80s-sounding music and aerial view of New York set the scene at the very start of Wakefield. Could not be farther from the truth!
Based on a short story by E.L. Doctorow, the narrative relies heavily on Bryan Cranston’s Howard Wakefield voiceover which, featuring lengthy descriptions of his memories, indeed makes it sound as if Cranston is reading the novel out to us… and however expressive his voice is, it doesn’t make for a bestseller.
Howard is asking: Who hasn’t had the urge to put their life on hold? I imagine the answer would be – most of us, however not many ever dare to act upon it. Displeased with his corporate life, beautiful wife, and life in the suburbs, the very competitive and self-absorbed Howard retreats for several months in the attic having the voice in his head, hungry raccoons and a couple of children with mental disabilities (where do I start…) as the only companions for most of it.
When the usual gaudy revelation kicks in towards the end and Howard’s voiceover tells us I didn’t leave my family, I left myself you cannot help but ask really, Howard?! He abandons his comfortable yet apparently suffocating lifestyle for a cold attic with a bucket and glass bottles for a toilet in order to find, reinvent himself yet (spoiler alert) runs back to his wife as soon as an old friend, competitor, and ex-suitor to his wife’s hand (all in one person!) reappears in the picture. Really, Howard?!
The always magnificent Bryan Cranston carries Wakefield entirely on his shoulders and does so with convincing subtlety and admirable ability to hold the camera but the script is what ultimately fails him.
Bryan Cranston shines as the selfish but relatable Howard Wakefield in this funny and poignant reminder that you don’t have to go to India to find yourself – your attic will do. Unfortunately what you find thanks to Wakefield is not a life lesson but buckets on annoyance with the main character and his mid-life crisis.