Get The Skinny on ‘Welcome to Marwen’!

This is not exactly a G.I.Joe movie in fact G.I.Joe is never mentioned. It definitely uses “dolls” to tell the story. (Sorry Kirk Bozigian but they use that term extensively.) In the case of the ladies that certainly is true.
For that matter this is not a Barbie story or an Americana doll story.

You will see plenty of action scenes with the figures, and the CGI would make a film fest participant drool. If only we could get our hands on such a budget. Marwen is the 12 inch diorama town that Mark Hogancamp builds after his life is kicked away by a bar fight. The four mean beat him so severely that all his memories and drawing skills are gone.

He has been coping with the attack by playing out his life with the figures and fighting out his emotions and wishes through them. He is a shattered man and one doll in particular has a hold on him. This is the doll that represents his wife, who left him and his medication. He also is addicted to his medication. He has not drank since that night. He feels responsible for the attack since he was drunk. Clearly he was not.

Regardless of what you think of a man who likes women’s shoes, such a cataclysmic event was not warranted. Much of the movie is Hoagie’s dealing with the attackers (Nazis) through his elaborate dioramas and working through his troubles with creativity.

Meanwhile a lovely woman moves in next door (Nicol) Hogancamp is taken with her but due to the nature of his mental state, he misinterprets her friendship. Most of the movie is after Nicol has moved in and about Hoagie (the figure) and all the ladies taking on the Nazis. Nicol buys Hoagancamp an SS officer and that becomes Nicol’s exboyfriend.

In the end in a climactic battle it seems that Hogancamp is able to work through all of his issues and attend the court hearing of his attackers, or his own gallery show. In this battle an unusual element is put into the film and I do wonder if Zemeckis put it there or if in the real story Hogancamp actually used this device. The movie is disturbing at times and I really am not sure how the general public will view Hogancamp. Many will most likely take pity on him and see his using the figures as a form of mental sickness. They help him but they also hold him back.  I think the movie fails in that regard as not portraying him as a normal person. His female friends are very understanding in the film.  He has built this universe set in World War 2 and I don’t know if he is really coping all that well as much as avoiding his actual reality. I cannot say, because I have not (thankfully) been beaten so severely as to lose most cognitive function. Hogancamp’s house has notes posted everywhere to remind him of things we take for granted.

While the action scenes with the CGI figures were fantastic, the deeper story may turn off the casual viewer.Comedians tend to try serious roles on for size and in some cases it works, in others it does not. While I enjoyed the film, I don’t think most audiences will. It is too far into using the realm of fantasy to cope with PTSD for most to grasp. Perhaps if it had a scene of someone as a child playing with their 12 inch figures and creating worlds to remind the audience of how imagination can build worlds. I know I have heard many 12 inch collectors agree that G.I. Joe to them was their Uncle who was in WW2 or their father, the milk man down the street, etc. Those kids gave their Joes personalities on their own.

If the audience had an understanding of that way of playing, and how Hogancamp has reverted back to that style, they could empathize. As it is, all we see is a man not able to function in either world very well. He has outbursts and a lack of social skills. He did for certain have a great skill in customizing and diorama building. Also a skill in making friends who would support him after his tragedy.

This is a movie about the attack, coping, not coping, fear, bullying, sympathetic friends, and innocence.

What did you think about Welcome to Marwen? Let us know AFTER THE JUMP!

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