Review: 'Wakefield' Starring Bryan Cranston & Jennifer Garner

"What is so sacrosanct in a marriage, a family that we need to live in it day after day?" 

Here's a tip: if your significant other ever says something like this, start packing a bag. Or more likely, they've already packed their bags and are headed for the door. That's what Bryan Cranston's disillusioned family man does in Wakefield, a promising but tedious oddity from writer/director Robin Swicord, best known for The Jane Austen Book Club. It's not often there's too much of Cranston, he's one of the most entertaining screen actors around, but this is one of those times.

The vast majority of Swicord's slow-moving character study is told in Cranston's voiceover, from a dingy old, visually unappealing attic. From there sits Cranston as Howard Wakefield, a Manhattanite who has grown tired of his seemingly perfect life with his gorgeous wife (Jennifer Garner, mostly seen from afar through windows), two daughters, and career as a high-powered attorney. One day, after chasing a raccoon into the attic above their outdoor garage, Howard just decides to stay there. Why go back home he an observe his life from afar through the window/peephole? How will those in his life react to his disappearance? Will they suffer? Will they celebrate? Will his wife move on?

Early on we catch on to what Howard really is. He's a voyeur. He gets off on watching others and seeing what they do. We learn that he likes to play a game with his wife where she flirts openly with other men, just to make him jealous. They would then have amazing make-up sex, until ultimately Howard takes things too far. This is his M.O., and this latest exercise is him taking the game way too far once again. He becomes obsessed with watching his family move on without him. Days, weeks, months pass, with Howard sneaking into the house to steal food, or eating straight out of the garbage. Eventually he comes to look like a homeless man, unrecognizable and free to walk around the city to observe things even closer. But what is the ultimate point? What's his end game?

That answer remains frustratingly out of reach for Swicord, and thus it remains out of reach for Cranston, who plays Howard as just some curio rather than a man with a legitimate problem. Howard just isn't a very interesting or sympathetic guy, and his Peeping Tom antics don't suddenly make him one. We learn precious little about why he felt this need to live outside of himself for what turns out to be an entire year. And what we do learn about Howard only makes him look more like a creep. He has a few witty thoughts that pass through his warped mind every now and then, but not enough to make spending two hours with Wakefield worth the investment.

Rating: 2 out of 5