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Friday, May 31, 2019

My Friend Ambiguity

I'm not surprised Wakefield escaped my radar upon its release in 2016. The film's ambiguous ending likely destined it for a brief run in theaters. Too bad; this movie deserves to be seen and discussed. If you happen to catch it on cable TV, please share your impressions with me and others.

Based on E.L. Doctorow's updated version of a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story, the title character is portrayed - with predictable excellence - by Bryan Cranston. The central premise of escaping a life that has become routine is not new but Doctorow/Hawthorne spin that tale in intriguing, imaginative, and comical fashion. And who among us has never entertained Howard Wakefield's fantasy, however briefly?

Though films using a lot of voiceover can sometimes annoy me, that device worked beautifully for Wakefield. My guess? Much of the voiceover material - intelligent, insightful, and bitterly funny - was lifted directly from Doctorow. Soon after watching the movie, I put Doctorow's 2008 short story near the top of my post-November reading queue. I will be greedily devouring it right after my one-year resolve to read only authors new to me concludes. Anyone out there already read it? Is the ending ambiguous? I bet it is.

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