The Living Wake Review

“Binew was the first to attribute personalities to numbers; something thought to be stupid only years earlier.”

The Living Wake stars unappreciated and unrecognized genius, K. Roth Binew on his last day of life as he has been “diagnosed with a grave and vague disease.” He is accompanied by his man, chauffeur, servant, Mills. Mills is his best, and only friend, besides belligerence and alcohol, and with his last day on Earth tightly scheduled, these two set out to fill the tasks of the day, handing out invitations to the evening’s wake along the way.

Among the tasks of this quixotic dilettante is swearing off the war with his neighbor. He drugs a prostitute to get out of paying her 50 bucks, attempts to get his unpublished books on to the shelves of the public library, and even tricks the town Liquorsmith into trading him the man’s own glasses for a bottle of his finest bourbon before meeting with his childhood nanny, who is some 50 years his senior, for a make out session under the watchful eye of her husband…in the woods.

Binew is a mildly deranged and touched genius. Mills is also a poet, and his authorized biographer who tracks much of what Binew says throughout the day. He even sketches the scene with the prostitute for posterity, hence the 50 bucks since Mills watched.

Binew is not a great writer, dancer, performer, painter, though he has worked it up in his mind that the world must appreciate him in his passing, and that his works must live on in the annuls of history with the greats of literature and art. He is oddly poignant at times in the film, but for the most part everything said and uttered is hilarious and hyperbolic.

Binew himself is as odd a character as the setting of the film. It is a nondescript town set in a nondescript time. Seriously, I really have no idea where or when this film happens. Characters, including Mills, have accents from varying regions of the world. I only assume America because at the end of the film, Binew mentions he has a crisp $20 bill strapped to his genitals for anyone with the gumption to go after it once he is dead.

I love the entire film. Often, I will try a film out, and as I press play I think, “You’ve got 15 minutes to impress me.” With as many films as I watch, I get to experimenting with the obscure, as this film is, and I can be disappointed. I challenge you this: If the first five minutes of this film does not get you hooked, then you need to not only turn it off, but run from your TV. This film is not for you. This is like if Don Quixote and Juno got together with The Royal Tenenbaums at funeral for a Woody Allen film. It’s just really weird.

It’s not a bad thing. I loved every minute. I loved the boisterous and peacockish nature of K. Roth. I loved Jim Gaffigan as his father with cameos throughout. I loved the random thoughts and almost retarded waxings of Binew. I loved the relationship between Mills and K. Roth, and even loved the shit out of the two music numbers, one in the middle and the last just in the closing minutes of the film.

It’s a film that does not take itself seriously, but in the best way. I feared that moment where the movie just got a little too serious and touching, taking me out of the amazing world that had been constructed for me, but it never came. I feel like the writing of this was a competition for the most extravagant and eccentric ramblings they could think of. Pub wisdom and philosophy. Trying to achieve falling just short of genius, which in itself created a film that for me is genius.

It can be a bit slow to many I am sure, but it is all dialogue and subtleties in the acting that drive this film. Setting and brilliantly written dialogue. This film is unendingly quotable.

A few fun facts: This film was made released in 2007 to the tune of $500,000 and made just under $3,000 opening weekend to one screen. Don’t worry, two months later it had made just over $12,000. Whew, it could have been a flop.

I highly recommend this film if you like some of the film mash-ups I suggested. For me, it can be a cartoonish and garish look in to one man’s hope to be remembered when he is gone, while it might be the crazed and drunken ramblings of a hopeless nobody for the purpose of his own ego and pipe dreams of being someone who created and lived and didn’t just pass on as one of the billions who were just swallowed up. This one hits a little close to home, but damned if I don’t love this movie.

“Oh, majestic goat. Die quietly on your stake, and trust your throat will bleat on our plates. Oh, majestic goat. have faith your surrender will sate our tummy-boats, will feed out luncheon splendor. Oh, Majestic goat.”

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