"Welcome to Marwen" is a misguided Male Fantasy-RomDram-Inspirational film that might have worked better on a 1950s audience. This genre espouses a simplistic philosophy of good and evil, of idealized women who take care of physically and emotionally damaged men. (Disclaimer: I'm not referring to the real story of the artist Mark Hogencamp, just to the fictionalized characters and fictionalzed story of this film.)
Every woman I know has needed to set boundaries each time we run into a damaged or needy man who mistakes our polite conversation and genuine concern for an invitation to intimacy.There are creeper guys all over the place and women learn to manage them by being nice. We get stuck in corners listening to the drunk uncle while others party with their peers. We wear headphones on airplanes in a futile attempt to stop the man sitting next to us from telling us his life story when all we want to do is read a book. Steve Carrell's performance was an accurate portrayal of a creeper guy. You know the type: he watches women with a telephoto lens through his front window. He likes women who are dolls and who exist only to take care of him. The book "Welcome to Marwencol" and the documentary Marwencol are sympathetic and powerful tributes to the healing power of art and how one man is able to find meaning and strength through his art. This film focuses more on the fetishization of women and how one man is able to find meaning and strength through his imagined relationships with women.
I couldn't grok why all the human female characters weren't alarmed that he creates dolls in their images. Have they never watched stalker films in make-believe Upstate New York? They have porn in Upstate New York, but no stalker films?
Maybe I didn't understand the finer points of the film. Perhaps the real world of the film is just as much a fantasy as the Belgian village? Perhaps we're to believe the human females are living dolls are unreal, just in different ways than their fetishized dollpelgangers? If so, it's even creepier.
Human Nicol dresses in Heidi-chic and secretes a weirdly false attitude that's upbeat yet in charge (she has a desk calendar), despite hints of a tragic past and an intrusive, controlling ex. She sees no cause for concern to learn Human Mark has transformed her into an idealized dolly friend for his doll-ter ego, Hogie. If only she'd heard every woman watching in the theater advising her to GTF outta there because we've all been caught in these uncomfortable situations. Some of us have, no doubt, even flirted with damaged men because, in our ignorance, we thought that was fun and safe and made even good for their self esteem and no harm done. I just don't know how else to explain why her character is clueless about the effect of her own décolletage upon Human Mark but shocked to witness a doll's exposed plasticised breasts, unless it's to show the viewer that the doll, being the virtuous version of femininity, attempts to cover herself, while Human Nicol leans in to permit a closer look).
In any case, and I hope I don't ruin it for you, Mark falls for the human doll, which is pretty much telegraphed from the moment he meets her so if this ruins it for you, you might have fallen asleep. This happened to my husband, who didn't dislike the film, just didn't like it.
And poor Human Roberta, whose raison d'être is to support, love, and make the male lead whole. I wasn't convinced that Roberta had any interest in Movie Steve. She's a helper who helps him get an art show. She tries to help him get to court so he can find justice. She tries to get him to come our of his shell and have dinner at her mom's so he can be with other humans.This is love? Bummer.
Things go full-stalker-movie when Movie Steve really wants a doll for a girlfriend, a doll to dress and fictionally romance, and after the doll rejects him, he settles on a real woman, because the real woman is available while the doll was out of his league. Oh, goodie goodie for Human Roberta. One woman's stalker-movie gets a happy ending in the world of male fantasy-feel-good films. But you deserve more, Roberta! You are worthy! If the man you settle for only wants a woman shaped and dressed like Barbie, he should, at the very least, be more of a Ken.