Year Released: 2007
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 91 minutes
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This review was originally published on November 9, 2007.
K. Roth Binew (O’Connell) is dying at the end of the day. His doctor has discovered an unnamed untreatable illness that will take the life of the eccentric Binew shortly after nightfall. Such is the plot for one of the funniest, most creative and beyond ridiculous (in a good way) films I’ve ever seen, “The Living Wake.” This is one of those reviews that’s nearly impossible to write because explaining the tone and humor of the film will come nowhere close to expressing what a refreshing blast this film is, but I shall saunter forward and do my best.
Depending on the way you look at him, Binew is either an eccentric or a lunatic. He chugs Scotch from the back of his three wheeled bicycle rickshaw which is driven by his best friend, biographer and ingénue Mills (Eisenberg) who is taking his mentors impending death pretty hard. Eisenberg, who is apparently incapable of being in bad movies, is a great straight-man to O’Conell’s over-the-top Binew but their relationship allows you to care more about the both of them. They also play hilariously off one another. Or I should say, O’Connell plays hilariously and Eisenberg’s character sucks it up perfectly.
I don’t know who Mike O’Connell is, but without any hesitation I will say he’s a brilliant comedian. To even come up with two or three scenes featuring K. Roth Binew traveling with Mills by rickshaw would be hysterical and watchable. Yet he and writer Peter Kline have created a whole movie that really never misses a beat. I also felt director Sol Tryon gave the film a great, distinctive look. It sort of reminded me of Robert Altman’s “Popeye” with a hint of “Harold and Maude” thrown in for good measure.
As Binew’s final day unspools, he sets about doing some things he’s always wanted to do. He attempts to make amends with a crabby neighbor and professes his undying love for his childhood nanny, now a geriatric, yet attractive woman. Throughout the day Binew hands out invites to that evenings “living wake” and the film culminates with the big party to end all parties.
At times “The Living Wake” felt like a live action cartoon or some kind of fairy tale from a bizarre-o world and I loved it. I can totally see how some people will not know what the hell is going on, and that’s understandable. Binew speaks in a loud, presentational bellow and is prone to launching into song and dance. But if you allow yourself to fall into the world of “The Living Wake,” you’re really in for a treat. Funny, touching, insane, ridiculous and brilliant are just a few words I would use to describe “The Living Wake.” Films like this need to be seen so seek it out, you’ll be glad you did.
Posted on May 13, 2010 in Reviews by Don R. Lewis
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