It’s hard to really decide what genre The Living Wake belongs to. On the surface, it seems like an absurdist, character-driven comedy – a smugger Napoleon Dynamite, perhaps. But when you start delving into its core, it turns into something a little darker.
Stand-up comedian Mike O’Connell stars as K. Roth Binew, a self-obsessed man of uncertain means who is ferried around his somewhat dismal rural neighborhood by his fawning manservant Mills Joqin, played by Jesse Eisenberg in full Michael Cera 2.0 mode. The pair encounter a number of odd characters on their perambulations, inviting each and every one of them to Binew’s wake. You see, K. Roth Binew has been told that his time on Earth is up, and he’s loath to die without coming to terms with being abandoned by his father. So, in his last day on the planet, he’s wrapping up his affairs.
The Living Wake is, at best, a partial success. The movie commits to its loony premise and off-kilter characters with aplomb, and the performances are strong. But it all seems kind of insubstantial, like it’s reaching for something larger than it can grasp. It’s a strange movie – obviously inflected with the kind of suburban surrealism practiced by Wes Anderson, but working towards a less commercial goal. The characters that Binew interacts with are more out of Trailer Park Boys – bearded farmers, prostitutes, liquor store salesmen. There’s nobody you can really feel with in the movie. If that’s a problem, steer clear, but if you want some solid laughs delivered in an extremely unusual way, The Living Wake might be for you.