×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Walter’

As part of its quirky conceit, this under-conceived indie dramedy puts final judgment in the hands of a small-town ticket-taker who thinks he's the son of God.

With:
Andrew J. West, Justin Kirk, Virginia Madsen, William H. Macy, Milo Ventimiglia, Neve Campbell, Peter Facinelli, Leven Rambin, Jim Gaffigan.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2016335/

Walter works at the movie theater in a small town, where he believes he’s the son of God, tasked by the Man upstairs with deciding whether those around him are going to heaven or hell. Whether audiences are also willing to believe this original if somewhat half-baked premise is another question entirely. While “Walter” harks back to so many stylized ’90s-era indies — and conceivably might have played a festival like Sundance had it been made two decades earlier — these days, such an overly cutesy, credibility-straining dramedy is fated to disappear into VOD purgatory, following its modest theatrical release in March.

Crafted with equal doses of poignancy and pap, Paul Shoulberg’s screenplay (expanded from his 2010 short, directed by someone else entirely) caught the eye of first-time helmer Anna Mastro, who embraces the sincerity at the script’s core, but doesn’t quite know how to handle its more offbeat sense of magical realism. How, exactly, does anyone take its weird conceit seriously?

Affectlessly played by the otherwise affable Andrew J. West (Gareth on “Walking Dead”), the story’s protagonist is a clean-cut, blank-faced, slightly obsessive-compulsive boy named (what else?) Walter. Except in the real world, hardly anyone calls their kids that anymore. (To quote Esquire magazine, “the word looks like the chicken skin of an old man’s calf.”)

Every morning, this contrived young man awakens to a symphony of alarm clocks to find his clothes neatly ironed and folded by his equally artificial mother (Virginia Madsen), whose only other character trait is an inexplicable need to cook eggs, buying dozens at a time, then scrambling them up for every meal. Against this kooky backdrop, Walter informs us about his peculiar mandate: With one glance, he judges any and all who cross his path, which the film intends to be humorous, but instead feels merely capricious. (Why does this twerp get to decide the eternal fate of those he barely knows? And why doesn’t he actually engage with anyone, instead of walking around in his bizarre autistic bubble?)

“Walter” plays it fast and loose with the religious implications of its wobbly premise. For the record, Walter explains, he’s not Jesus: “That was someone else, with a beard.” But if Jesus was a carpenter, why shouldn’t his successor be tearing movie tickets at the local megaplex?

When not passing final judgment on total strangers, this inexplicably empowered nobody maintains awkward friendships with an over-sexed jerk (a funny if profane character bit by “Heroes’” Milo Ventimiglia), the pretty concession-stand clerk (Leven Rambin) and his checked-out slob of a boss (Jim Gaffigan). Not that any of these connections promises much potential, least of all the wispy hint of romantic intrigue with the film’s eunuch-like hero.

Instead, aided by an irreverent local shrink (William H. Macy), Walter spends most of the movie dealing with unfinished business, helping a stranded soul (Justin Kirk) only he can see figure out if he’s damned or not, while getting the bottom of a mystery involving a local nurse (Neve Campbell) with an ambiguous connection to Walter’s dead dad (Peter Facinelli).

Macy brings just the right amount of quirk to his highly unprofessional-sounding therapy sessions, providing a glimpse of what director Mastro might be able to do in future projects when paired with good-sport collaborators. The film’s few additional flourishes — such as Rambin basking on a bed of freshly popped corn, a la “American Beauty’s” rose-petal scene — feel far from fresh. The same goes for the canned flashbacks depicting Walter as a carefree kid, though these scenes do hold the key to the movie’s surprisingly cathartic payoff.

Film Review: 'Walter'

Reviewed at Palm Springs Film Festival (World Cinema Now), Jan. 3, 2015. Running time: 94 MIN.

Production: An Entertainment One release of a Demarest Films presentation of a Purple Bench Films, Zero Gravity Mgmt., Live Through the Heart Films, Barry Films, Furture Films production. Produced by Mark Holder, Christine Holder, Brenden Patrick Hill, Ryan Harris. Benito Mueller. Executive producers, Bill Johnson, Sam Engelbardt, Jennifer Laurent, Rick St. George, John Fuller, Carl Rumbauch, Tim Hill, Ricky Margolis, Simon Graham Clare, Wolfgang Mueller, Michel Merkt, Anna Mastro. Co-executive producers, Stefanie Mastro, Michael David Mastro, Keith Matson, Joanne Matson. Co-producer, Antonio Sclafani.

Crew: Directed by Anna Mastro. Screenplay, Paul Shoulberg. Camera (color), Steve Calitri; editor, Kristin McCasey; music, Dan Romer; music supervisor, Kier Lerman; production designer, Michael Bricker; art direction, Gary Barbosa; costume designer, Lauren Schad; sound, Eric Thomas; supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, John Warrin; visual effects producer, Leandro Marini; visual effects supervisor, Worth Bjorn Walters; assistant director, Jeremy Phoenix; associate producer, Michael Bricker; casting, J.C. Cantu.

With: Andrew J. West, Justin Kirk, Virginia Madsen, William H. Macy, Milo Ventimiglia, Neve Campbell, Peter Facinelli, Leven Rambin, Jim Gaffigan.

More Film

  • The Eight Hundred (The 800)

    History Rethink Group Key to 'Eight Hundred' Shanghai Cancellation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Chinese authorities may have abruptly yanked Huayi Brothers’ $80 million patriotic war epic “The Eight Hundred” the day before its debut as the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival’s opening film because it didn’t portray rivals of the ruling Communist Party in a sufficiently negative light, local reports said. Huayi on Friday attributed the cancellation of its [...]

  • Simon West

    Simon West Directing Chinese Tomb-Raid Movie “Legend Hunters’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    The British director Simon West, who made Angelina Jolie-starring “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider,” is now co-directing a Chinese tomb-raiding film. “The Legend Hunters” is the next instalment in the “Mojin” universe based on the popular fantasy novel series “Ghost Blows Out the Light.” Backed by Wanda Pictures and Beijing-based Saints Entertainment, the film is set [...]

  • Emu Runner

    Sydney Film Review: 'Emu Runner'

    Writer-director Imogen Thomas’ debut feature “Emu Runner” has and probably will play in designated family-themed strands of film festivals, and given its story of a 9-year-old Aboriginal girl who deals with grief in the wake of her mother’s death by bonding with a lone female representative of Australia’s largest native bird species, this programming strategy [...]

  • Sophia Antipolis

    Locarno in Los Angeles Film Review: 'Sophia Antipolis'

    There are two Sophias in French director Virgil Vernier’s clever, cunning, chilling fifth feature. The first is its setting, the eponymous “Sophia Antipolis,” a technology park in the south of France, a place self-consciously designed as an experiment in social engineering, where an international community of professionals would, it was hoped, create an environment of [...]

  • I Lost My Body

    Netflix Pickup ‘I Lost My Body,’ ‘Buñuel,’ ‘Away’ Top Annecy Festival

    ANNECY, France  — Fulfilling expectations, Jeremy Clapin’s “I Lost My Body, the subject of one of the highest-profile Netflix deals at this year’s Cannes, won this Saturday the Annecy Festival’s top Cristal Award of best feature plus, in a relatively rare Annecy double whammy, the festival’s Audience Award. The first was expected, the second a [...]

  • 'Fausto' Review: Andrea Bussmann's Beautuful, Inscrutable

    Locarno in Los Angeles Film Review: 'Fausto'

    In more ways than one, “Fausto” is a film that likes to keep its audience in the dark: The bulk of its imagery is thickly cloaked in velvety night, often barely illuminated but for pinpricks of moonlight or a flickering candle, sometimes to the point where viewers must strain and squint to identify what they’re [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content