Friday, October 22, 2021

Weekend Screen Scene: The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, No Future

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is an odd movie, which is appropriate, because Louis Wain was an odd man. I don't think I had ever heard of him prior to this movie, but there's no doubt I was aware of his artistic work, as it involved cats. 

It's hard to imagine a time when cats were not considered the meme-worthy creatures they are now, but back in Victorian England, cats were mainly animals you kept around outside to kill mice, their history as creatures who were, in other cultures and earlier times, worshiped as gods, blinding people to their inherent silliness. Louis Wain did just that in whimsical and colorful work that appeared in books, postcards, newspapers, and other commercially available ephemera.

Benedict Cumberbatch is excellent as Wain, in a biopic that both sticks to the conventions of the genre, for better and for worse, and tosses in moments of surrealism and unconventional imagery that helps bring Wain's unique worldview into focus (although I have a hard time understanding director Will Sharpe's choice of aspect ratio). Claire Foy, also great, co-stars as his wife, Emily, the ultimate catalyst of his cat fancy. The middle parts of the film, depicting the happiest moments in their life, are, maybe needless to say, the most enjoyable. As Wain gets older, and must deal with tragedy and his own declining mental state, the film becomes a bit of a drag.

As tends to be the case with many biopics, you may come away from it with more questions than you even had going in, reaching for that phone so you can google his Wikipedia entry once the end credits start. Don't come to The Electrical Life of Louis Wain for the facts. Come for the performances, some moments of original beauty, and of course, the cats.

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is currently playing in select theaters and will begin streaming on Amazon Prime on November 5th.

I'll watch almost anything Catherine Keener is in because even in a bad movie, I know she'll be, at the very least, interesting. In No Future, Keener is as interesting as ever, with the added benefit of being surrounded by an equally strong cast, including Charlie Heaton, Jackie Earle Haley, and her Brand New Cherry Flavor co-star, Rosa Salazar. And it's the film's performances alone that lift it, occasionally, above a pretty standard story of addiction and the difficulties surrounding recovery.

The unexpected relationship that develops between Keener's grieving mother, and Heaton, as her deceased son's former best friend, instills the film with moments of genuine frisson, and Keener, as always, kept me fully engaged. But aside from those moments, the film is predictable, and doesn't really have anything new to say about the toll drug addiction can take on friends and family. The ending left me thinking "Is that all there is?" until I quickly realized that's a rather fitting response. For lives torn apart by addiction, too often that really is all there is.

No Future is currently playing in select theaters.

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