Wakefield is a meditative little movie about an average middle-aged man’s descent into indulgent absenteeism. Bryan Cranston stars as Howard Wakefield, a man who inadvertently spends a night in the space above his detached garage and decides he fancies stepping away from his life. It’s a showcase role that finds Cranston doing all of the heavy lifting while he whiles away the months watching his family from his vantage for months — narrating their life, his musings and their history.
It’s an exercise that grows tedious fairly quickly, not because it isn’t well written assembled or portrayed, but because the narrative is effective. Howard is resentful and bitter. In fact, he’s just an asshole. And he quickly reveals this to us. Within 15 minutes, if not less, the entire swing of the emotion in film flips from wondering “why this experience” to “I hope she catches him. And leaves him.” Jennifer Garner is here too, as Diana, Howard’s long suffering wife, but apart from flashbacks and hallucinations we really only get to watch her from afar and gain what intel we can from Howard’s view on the matter.
Wakefield is often frustrating, but it’s always fascinating. This devolution of a man, and bold introspection makes for a kind of fly-on-the-wall intrigue. You couldn’t stand Howard in life, but as a captive audience, it’s almost riveting to watch as he grows more bold, brash and desperate over time. His misadventures with raccoons and trash pickers infuse some humor into his alternately self pitying and self aggrandizing musings.
If you’re looking to the antidote to mindless summer viewing, Wakefield certainly qualifies, but though it proves a worthy thought experiment, you may not enjoy your time with Mr. Howard Wakefield — he’s vying for the title of the worst.