In 2000, artist Mark Hogancamp, a cross-dresser, was attacked by five men and left for dead outside of a bar in Kingston, NY. He spent nine days in a coma, and had to relearn how to eat, walk and write. He recovered by creating a tiny new world, a scale World War II town he named Marwencol, using doll alter egos for family, friends and enemies. He captured his re-enactments in photographs. Discovered by people in the art world, he had exhibits in galleries.
A brain-damaged artist who creates and photographs a fantasy world has been the focus of an award-winning 2010 documentary, “Marwencol,” and a book, “Welcome to Marwencol,” and now, Mark Hogancamp is the subject of an ambitious, creative and strange film directed and co-written by Oscar winner Robert Zemeckis.
Zemeckis is known for his blend of special effects with story, as in “Forrest Gump,” “Back to the Future” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” And he shows great flair in creating this miniature world using stop animation, so that part is eye-popping and interesting.
However, the storytelling is problematic. As good as Carell is as the sympathetic impaired man and Leslie Mann as his kind-hearted neighbor Nicol (the “Col” in “Marwencol”), the storytelling sags because of repetition and the uneven tone.
So, part weird, part wonderful, it doesn’t entirely work, but the inventiveness goes a long way.