Finally wrapping up my 2018 catch-up, this title sort of seemed to come and go in the blink of an eye. It floats somewhat under the radar for most, it seems, as whenever i bring up the title, people either haven't heard of it, or if they have, refer to it as "that weird doll movie" or something along those lines. I, however, always knew it was something that dabbled in the area of mental health, and I'm always curious about such things, so to choose this as my final title was a bit of a no-brainer.
We meet Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell), who we learn suffers from acute memory loss and posttraumatic stress disorder, based on an attack from a group of homophobes that left him hospitalized for some time. The basis of this attack was the idea that he (Mark) enjoys wearing women's shoes, and it's plain and simply a hate crime against him. As a result, Mark now uses fashion dolls to create a fictional World War II-based village called "Marwen" in order to escape and cope with the world around him. All is basically well until he gets reminded of his court date, which leads to nervous breakdowns in reality, and Nazi attacks in Marwen within his imagination.
Residing within the world of Marwen are namely himself as "Cap'n Hogie", and a handful of tough, protective women who represent his friends in real life; home caretaker, Anna (Gwendoline Christie); Physiotherapist, Julie (Janelle Monáe), Suzette (Leslie Zemeckis), Bartender, Carlala (Eiza González) and hobby store clerk Roberta (Merritt Wever). Nazi soldiers represent the guys who beat him up, but perhaps most strange is the green-haired Belgian witch named Deja Thoris (Diane Kruger), as she prevents Hogie from getting close to any of the women of Marwen, and insists she's the only one who can stop his pain.
All seemingly has the potential to change, when his new neighbor, Nicol (Leslie Mann) moves in, and he becomes interested for the first time since bartender Wendy (Stefanie von Pfetten) found him after the attack. As one can probably imagine, the whole world of Marwen, and the animated sequences within, are symbolic to everything going on around him, and soon enough Mark has to face reality when it comes down to a court date that can hopefully put his attackers away. If you have ever seen the movie 'Sucker Punch', there are similarities with the extreme symbolism, but its all executed very differently - I'd even say probably a bit better here, as I found this much easier to follow.
The animated sequences, themselves, are really well done. I enjoy the CG used to render each doll, and furthermore, how much the dolls represent the people in his life. That said, there is some oddball stuff here, like the idea that Suzette is actually based on his favorite actress and, as far as I can tell, is also a porn star, and she's barely a part of things. I don't know about real-world accuracy, but it did seem unnecessarily crammed in. On top of that, it does feel obvious to me almost right away what exactly Deja represents, although the film makes her out to be a mystery woman. It makes one question if they SHOULD have known all along, because once the big reveal happens you kind of end up thinking to yourself "well, duh".
This isn't a movie I'd necessarily consider to be bad in any way, but it certainly didn't leave me with the impact that some of Zemeckis' similar earlier work has, namely as 'Forest Gump', which is still a personal favorite. Although, it does manage to deal with things like having to overcome one's anxiety to face one's fears head on - in this case, his court date and facing his attackers. I also enjoy that they don't really shy away from anything he does, and instead of making it a movie where he's frowned upon for playing with dolls, his community is actually very supportive and want to help him with his work. At the end of the day, it didn't entirely impact me, but I'm still glad I took the time to finally watch it. It's something one would have to judge for themselves, but despite a few holes here and there, it's not that bad.