Fatally eccentric, Sol Tryon's The Living Wake recounts the odyssey of outlandish weirdo K. Roth Binew (Mike O'Connell) as he delivers invitations to his going-away (from life) party via a bicycle rickshaw driven by devoted friend and minion Mills (Jesse Eisenberg). Resident of a bizarre forest fantasyland seemingly sprung from his own warped consciousness, Binew shouts, boozes, and breaks into song over his failure as an author and artist. No mere morose buffoon, however, O'Connell's bearded, well-dressed oddball mixes misery with manic glee as he spars with a ham-steak-throwing rival, takes counsel with a psychic, and steals a goat for a romantic picnic with his elderly nanny. Binew's condition is rooted in his attempt to learn the meaning of life, a quest for knowledge that laces his journey with blunt existential overtones. The sheer peculiarity of the piece is its prime calling card, and in O'Connell, it has a grandiose ringmaster for the carnivalesque craziness. Yet from an opening newsreel biography to a climactic Viking funeral ceremony, the film's absurdity proves oppressive, its linguistic cartwheels so mirthless, and its meticulous Wes Anderson–indebted set design and visual compositions so self-conscious, that the ridiculousness feels petrified.
O'Connell and Eisenberg as man and manservant.
Runs at Grand Illusion, Fri., June 4–Thurs., June 10. Not rated. 91 minutes.