Tuesday, 8 May 2012

THE LIVING WAKE DVD review

After contracting a mysterious but very prompt deadly disease, K. Roth Binew (Mike O'Connell) along with his man servant Mills (Jesse Eisenberg), spend the day riding around in his rickshaw inviting the locals to K. Roth's wake, taking place that evening with K. Roth as the star attraction.


Starring Mike O'Connell, written and produced by Mike O'Connell, based on an original short film made by... well, you get the idea. It's easy to make your mind up about The Living Wake within its first few moments, K. Roth Binew's speech pattern so peculiar and overly theatric that it could have you reaching for the remote, either to press the mute button or stop the film entirely. Even then, if you decide to stick around to check out the involvement of Jesse Eisenberg, you may be surprised by his odd supporting role as a rickshaw driving man-servant.


Less Royal Tenenbaums and more Brothers Bloom, the stylish but odd indie The Living Wake concerns the pontificating K. Roth Binew, a caddish fool with a penchant for Bourbon who longs for the heartwarming, life-altering monologue his dear departed father never got to deliver to him. Knowing he's on his last day hasn't softened his outlook on life much, and along with his best friend, authorised biographer and poet extraordinaire Mills is still bothering the locals who hate him with invitations to his one man show/wake.

Bearing similarities with last year's more dramatic Robert Duvall starring Get Low, this bizarre little oddity from 2007 (only just being released on DVD now) may be being sold on the relative star power of Jesse Eisenberg, but in all respects this is a film that belongs to writer/producer/composer/actor Mike O'Connell.

It's a crafty way of getting an audience to see your film, albeit one that couldn't have been planned. Hire an up and coming star in a supporting role and then, once he's hit the big time 5 years later, release your film on DVD and stick his face slap bang in the middle of the cover. The Living Wake isn't quite as profiteering as Camp Hell, the film that was the subject of a lawsuit from Eisenberg over the use of his image to sell the film despite his role being little more than a cameo, but be under no illusions that his role here is as second fiddle to Mike O'Connell.

In fact, it'd be fair to say that the film lives and dies by the performance of O'Connell as K. Roth. An obnoxious buffoon who's hard to warm to, he's not just egomaniacal enough to be present at his own wake, but he wants those townsfolk who despise him to experience his one man show too. It's hard to tell if the irony was planned, that in the search for K. Roth's brief but powerful monologue, it takes almost the entire running time to say anything at all. But, come the finale, along with its show-stopping number Dressed for Death, it manages to become genuinely heartfelt and moving.

The music is great, the costuming is great, the finished article is... less than the sum of its parts. The Living Wake is a sweet, flawed and throughly odd little indie brought down by a feeling of forced eccentricity. Its greatest strength may be as a calling card for Mike O'Connell, who may be a name to watch for the future.

Verdict




Special Features:
+ Commentary by Eisenberg
+ Commentary by O'Connell
+ The Re-Education of Mills Joquin - the short film the feature was based on
+ Musings with K. Roth Binew - short viral vignettes with the characters

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