The Living Wake




Shoreline Entertainment

It's not every day you see an absurdist quixotic tale about a self-proclaimed artist and genius by the name of K. Roth Binew, who has meticulously mapped out the last day of his life.

That is both the allure and the curse of "The Living Wake," a unique, in-your-face example of no-budget filmmaking co-written by and starring comedian Mike O'Connell that quickly proves to wear out its novel welcome.

The film is certain to win its share of admirers in addition to its annoyed detractors -- a number of whom made their feelings known during its CineVegas world premiere by beating a hasty retreat before Binew finally packs it in.

That heated divided alone could justify a theatrical release, although it seems as if all that unapologetic theatricality would have been better contained in a short film format.

O'Connell, who wrote the screenplay with Peter Kline, plays the dreaming-scheming-delusional Binew as an oddball cross between Don Quixote, Walter Mitty and Conan O'Brien.

Convinced that he's about to die of a very rare disease, he sets about saying his final farewells and preparing for his living wake with the help of his faithful minion and biographer, the timid Mills Joquin ("The Squid and the Whale's" Jesse Eisenberg).

The inherent problem with the Binew character and O'Connell's performance is that it's essentially a one-note proposition and that particular note would have been more at home in a "Saturday Night Live" or "Mad TV" sketch than sustained over the course of a 90-minute feature.

But while there's a familiar "inmates running the asylum" vibe to the proceedings, debuting feature director Sol Tryon admittedly gets considerable bang out of his very modest budget.

Props go to production designer Michael Grasley's quaint props used to dress those timeless Maine sets, as well as to costume designer Negar Ali whose vintage wardrobe finds appear to have been dug out of dozens of musty old trunks.
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