I went into Welcome with Marwen expecting it to be bad because of the critical scores that I have heard about it. Rotten Tomatoes score was low (27%) and the audience score was in the 50s. I also was not a huge fan of the trailers so I had pushed off seeing it until today.
This is why you should always make your own mind up.
I thought Welcome to Marwen was way better than I expected and I enjoyed the film. Now, there are some issues that I will get to, but this is, in no way, a film that I would expect to be at 27% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Welcome to Marwen tells the story of artist Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) who had been attacked at a bar one night three years before because, while drunk, he had told a gang of thugs that he liked to wear women’s shoes. They savagely beat him within an inch of his life and left him for dead. Mark had lost all his memories from before the attack and could no longer draw with his hand. So he took up photography and used dolls to tell his story about the Belgian town of Marwen, set in World War II.
However, the dolls he had in these photos represented people that he knew in the town he lived in, mostly women and the villainous Nazis were the thugs who had attacked him. Every time these Nazis would be killed in his photos, they would come back.
When beautiful new neighbor Nicol (Leslie Mann), “Nicole but without the ‘e'”, moved in, Mark got a crush and introduced a new redhead doll into the mix.
The movie is the story of how Mark was able to overcome the attack and to gain a modicum of his life back. The dolls’ adventures were shown on screen via motion capture in some real creative ways. The connections between the story of Hogie and the Women of Marwen in World War II echoed the real life of Mark. It was not very subtle.
Steve Carell was great again in this role. He has become a consistent performer, delivering strong work in every role he takes. There was an innocence about Mark that helped get him past the panic attacks and the memories that he did have.
Now, yes, I do believe that the women in Marwen were too accepting and, I personally, if I were Nicol, the introduction of the red head doll named Nicol as Hogie’s love interest, should have set off some alarms. In fact, I think that she was just not creeped out enough about this man she just met and his strange obsession with the toys. Maybe it speaks to the strength of her character, but it did not feel realistic.
You would think that as soon as the doll Hogie and the doll Nicol were being set up kissing, she may have wanted to have a talk with him about where they stood.
There is also a weird feel when watching the film because I am not sure that the movie specifically knows what it wants to present. Still, I found myself liking this more than I thought I would. Perhaps the lowered expectations paid off again. I thought Welcome to Marwen, despite its flaws, has some wonderful scenes and gives a tale of a man overcoming his fears and his obstacles. That is a lesson that we need to hear more.
Remember, make up your own mind. It does not matter what anyone else says.