Rear Window meets Cast Away in this farcical drama about a conceited, bitter lawyer who hides from his family just because he randomly feels like it one day. This movie that doesn’t feel so much like a movie as much as a short story ripped out of the pages of The New Yorker. It’s eloquent and drags at times, but damn is it good.
Much of that is owed to the always likable Bryan Cranston, who immediately makes it clear that we shouldn’t be liking his character in this New York suburban romp. He’s bitter, disenfranchised with his life and passes any indication that he may be to blame for his dissatisfaction with his life immediately onto anybody else in the nearby vicinity. The whole experiment with hiding himself is just a game to him, something he can observe from afar, freely, as his family and colleagues suffer nearby. You hate him until he undergoes his metaphysical transformation of body and spirit, growing a Grizzly Adams-esque beard and hilariously battling over dumpster territory with other homeless men.
But a great deal is also owed to Rachel McAdams who plays his tortured and discontent wife. We primarily see McAdams through Cranston’s own viewings of her but also get brief flashbacks to a somewhat-happier time years ago. In both these instances, McAdams shines, proving that she can evoke just as much emotion from us when we’re in a room with her or just observing from an attic window 50 meters away.
Wakefield is a satirical but also provocative glimpse into escapism, a dive into the hallows of suburbia and a testament to the pure ecstasy of leftover Thanksgiving food. It’s also an argument for the ineffability of human kindness: Cranston thinks of himself as a genius in the movie, a stooge so smart that no one else can triumph his plan, but its only until mentally disabled individuals next door help him does he learn true compassion, that being the smartest person in the room isn’t nearly as fulfilling if you don’t have any friends there to appreciate your genius. I won’t reveal how it ends, but I will say this is not a movie that you should keep lurking in your attic.