So, because you probably don’t know, WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS actually hits theaters this Friday. That’s right, theaters. Why this little movie didn’t take the video on demand path in the middle of nothing several months ago, I can’t explain nor do I know its history. I’m guessing the movie had a theatrical contract that it couldn’t get out of or something, otherwise we all would’ve had the opportunity to watch this in June or July. Speaking of history, so if theaters don’t open up until two days from now, the question you are probably asking yourself is, how the heck am I already writing a review of it? To give you a little insight into my past, before I had this blog, before I had a child, a wife, and a life, I used to go to all these advance screenings of films mostly held by this company http://www.gofobo.com. Don’t worry, they are a legit business. You go there, you would type in your zip code, and it would tell you where advanced and FREE movie screenings at theaters were being held around your area. So before I had any child depending on me, I would go to these advanced screenings…ALL THE TIME. One year I did an excel spread sheet of how much money I saved going to these free screenings, and needless to say, it was a boatload. But there is no such thing as a free screenings, as you were not guaranteed to get in, so you had to wait in line 2 to 4 hours, just to get a good seat, and depending on how early you got there, a decent seat in adjacent to the screen. It was only one show of it, at a specific time. You couldn’t choose. So while the screening was free, I would be at the theater double or even triple the time once the movie let out than I would have spent at a regular paid showing. Basically, all my evenings were giant time wasters to see a free movie. How dumb was I, right?
Anyway, so what does this company, GoFoBo, do, in the middle of a pandemic? Where there are no advance screenings, there are no new movies, there are no theaters open? They have mostly been promoting video on demand stuff, and I didn’t know this until just this week, but they have been doing VIRTUAL ADVANCE SCREENINGS. Most of these virtual advance screenings, however, were for Amazon, Hulu, or Netflix films that I would eventually get to see a couple of days later, because I subscribe to a lot of streaming services. So needless to say I wasn’t really missing out. In these virtual advance screenings, you have to click the link fast enough to reserve an online spot an hour before your screening, the movie starts on time, and you have a little window, a couple of minutes, where you can hit play. Wait too long, and the link expires. You can pause the movie for a tiny bit, but if you pause it for a prolonged period, the link expires. I happened to win a, virtual seat, if you will, from a website on Twitter. I still had to go and register and click the link one hour before Words On Bathroom Walls started, and when the clock hit 6:00 pm yesterday, a link that says ‘Watch Movie’ appears and you are supposed to click it almost immediately. Needless to say, it wasn’t that smooth. In fact, it was 6:05 and the link was still timing out on me. I was about to give up and maybe watch it when it came out on video. But finally, lo and behold, I wasn’t late, after the 10th to 11th click, a play button appeared and after a brief quarantine introduction by one of the films’ stars, I got to watch a movie that will hit theaters on Friday…on my phone. My phone (with earbuds) was a compromise as I was watching this while keeping an eye on my son watching his own kid stuff on TV and playing. So no more delays, let’s get to the thick of it shall we? How was the actual movie?
It’s was actually pretty decent, I even choked up a few times with it being a drama, but there was one or two things keeping it from being masterfully great, and I’ll get to those in a second. Per IMDB.com, Words On Bathroom Walls is described as such: “Diagnosed with a mental illness halfway through his senior year of high school, a witty, introspective teen struggles to keep it a secret while falling in love with a brilliant classmate who inspires him to not be defined by his condition.” That mental illness is schizophrenia, by the way, and his illness isn’t set up to be a mystery, the trailer and the beginning of the film tell you exactly what it is. The movie follows a very commonly used narrative outline, too common, which is one of the reasons why it fell short of being fantastic. You know the narrative, it’s like a movie about an alcoholic/drug user overcoming his addiction. **start of spoilers, skip to next paragraph** The movie starts out recognizing something is wrong with the young man, he gets expelled from school, but a new opportunity and a new experimental drug try to help him get his life together so he can be sane enough to go to culinary school, he also meets a girl there that inspires him. But eventually, it wouldn’t be a movie if everything was quaint and charming the rest of the hour and 50 minute run time, so this experimental drug, while working really well at first, actually hinders a lot of his thoughts and abilities, and he has a relapse, a really bad one, but then just as the lowest point in his life seemingly might be the end of it, a new glimmer of hope helps the kid come out of the rubble. So in essence, it follows the same roller coaster narrative on any rise and fall or addiction movie you’ve seen before. Nothing new here in terms of where the plot takes you. **end of spoilers**
What did work well, extremely well, were the performances. Everybody here, even Andy Garcia as the school’s main priest, brought their A game, especially the two leads. Charlie Plummer plays the titular character named Adam, and Taylor Russell plays the love interest Maya. Taylor Russell has been killing it lately in terms of acting. Her acting is always better than the movies she is in. She was the bright spot in Escape Room several years ago, and she made a huge splash (pun intended) last year, playing the main character in the second half of a film called Waves. If you haven’t seen Waves, do so immediately. Both actors take their characters to another level, adding layers where some would just try their best to recite their lines and move on. Their performances are worth one watch of this film alone. Walton Goggins even has a small supporting role as Adam’s step dad, a performance the comes more and more into the light the more screen time Goggins gets in the end. The scenes with Adam interacting Goggins or Adam interacting Garcia’s characters are the best moments in the film. Other than the love story, which I also enjoyed. Adam and Maya don’t just fall in love right off the bat. Their friendship into courtship felt very realistic here. The movie took it’s time, thank God, because if it hadn’t, and they would’ve been together minute 10 or 15, it probably wouldn’t taken me out of the experience a little too much.
I’ve gone on a little too long, so let’s wrap this up in this paragraph shall we? The other thing I didn’t like about the movie was the colorful characters that Adam sees as part of his schizophrenia. Now I’m not an expert of schizophrenia by any means, but I know that it is quite serious, and the lighthearted and sometimes funny parts of Adam’s mental illness didn’t seem realistic enough and the tone was a bit off with the rest of the movie. Are there any schizophrenics out there that can chime in with any lighthearted and funny moments of their mental illness? I highly doubt it. There is a weird hippy girl, played great by AnnaSophia Robb though, a weird sex pervert dude, and then a bald headed body guard with a bat. Their scenes were mostly comic relief, which I didn’t care for. I wanted something more serious, such as there is also this dark, figureless voice in Adam’s head that wants to torment Adam at every turn. That dark figureless voice with other insane and crazy visions, should have been it in the movie, the comic relief visions left on the cutting room floor. I don’t know, I’m not a psychiatrist or doctor, so I don’t know if there are bright spots in this mental illness, and if there are, I do apologize, but they just didn’t work in this movie for me. The film is a little out of his league for director Thor Freudenthal, as he has only directed kids movies like Percy Jackson 2 and Hotel For Dogs in his career, but maybe this is a stepping stone to get it out typecast. The film is shot well, and he is clearly an actor’s director, getting fantastic performances out of everyone. I enjoyed reading the words on this wall, I only wish there were more words that I hadn’t seen before and more serious words at that.