Today: February 21, 2024

The Living Wake

The Living Wake is an absurdist comedy of the highest order.

The Living Wake is an absurdist comedy of the
highest order.
K. Roth Binew (Mike O’Connell) is an eccentric with an expiry date. His Doctor has diagnosed him with a
mysterious disease, the only known fact of which is the precise moment at which
the sufferer will die. Accompanied
by his friend and devotee Mills Joquin (Jesse
) K. Roth spends his last day making a last ditch search for the
meaning of life, and ensuring that once he’s gone he will not be forgotten.

K. Roth is a character
of such inventive wit and passion that it’s hard to believe he’s on the verge
of death. O’Connell perfectly
inhabits the character, embracing every ridiculous implication of his
nature. Without such a strong turn
The Living Wake would have been a lesser affair, but as it is his performance
makes the film a blast. Shunned by
his family and desperate for recognition, K. Roth is a character custom-made
for young artists to relate to.

Director Sol Tryon clearly drew inspiration from
the works of Hal Ashby and Wes Anderson, particularly Harold and Maude and The Royal Tenenbaums. The way Tryon frames a shot is
unmistakably reminiscent of the quirky yet matter of fact look that has become
a signature of Anderson’s work; but Tryon keeps safely on the right side of the
line between style stealing and paying homage.

The story’s whacky
reality takes a few minutes to warm to, but once it gets going the film is
consistently entertaining. Some of
the supporting parts are underdeveloped and cheesy, but this is mostly redeemed
by the strength and depth of the central characters.

Jesse Eisenberg brings a
quieter brand of comedy to the show, expertly complementing O’Connell’s over
the top performance with a less showy but equally effective one. Though sometimes mute, the rest of the
time Mills makes no less clever use of the English language than K. Roth
does. The script (jointly written
by O’Connell and Peter Kline) is
alive with wordplay and charm, achieving an impressive balance between its dark
themes and surreal jokes.

O’Connell also
contributed to the music, collaborating with Carter Little to produce a delightfully peculiar soundtrack
interwoven with songs, lending the production a heightened dreamlike quality.

Though undeniably off
the wall the film retains a sombre edge, as if lamenting the transience of life
without ceasing to beguile its audience (just like K. Roth’s living wake). Tryon has crafted a production that
enthralls with gags and mayhem, whilst subtly presenting a bleak and thought
provoking worldview.

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