The Wave, 2020.
Directed by Gille Klabin.
Starring Justin Long, Tommy Flanagan, Katia Winter, Donald Faison, Sheila Vand, Sarah Minnich, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Monique Candelaria, Blythe Howard, and Bill Sage.
Frank (Justin Long), an opportunistic insurance lawyer, thinks he’s in for the time of his life when he goes out on the town to celebrate a soon-to-be promotion with his co-worker, Jeff (Donald Faison), but their night takes a turn for the worst when Frank is dosed with a hallucinogen that alters his perception and changes his life forever. He is thrown into a psychedelic quest through board meetings, nightclubs, shootouts, and alternate dimensions. As Frank ping-pongs across reality, he finds himself on a mission to find a missing girl, himself… and his wallet.
The Wave pretty much defies genre classification which means it’s never necessarily boring, but that doesn’t mean there’s a good movie formulated out of all these acid trip sci-fi time manipulating concepts. Involving an unknown drug consumed at a raucous house party that transports the tripper through time and space at all sorts of convenient plotting moments, the high-energy comedy never makes a great deal of sense from what is happening other than that the general narrative is something like A Christmas Carol if that story involved a scummy lawyer cheating families out of life insurance policies, but with no holidays and plenty of heavy-handed morality lessons regarding the underclass and the upper class.
Justin Long stars as Frank, a hypocritical law firm employee that has no issue sifting through file after file to place the blame of the average person’s financial woes on themselves for making irresponsible decisions such as purchasing new technology, all while openly admitting to his wife that he used some of their own funds to unnecessarily buy a 4K television set. If you are looking for an interesting marital dynamic here, keep looking, as Frank’s wife simply exists here to harp on his immaturity in excess to the point of incessant nagging, swiftly undoing any semblance of an actual character at all. She’s the stereotypical significant other that never shuts up, and as you can imagine, it’s a disappointing decision that doesn’t add anything to the hectic series of events Frank finds himself deciphering.
To be fair, that’s no different than the rest of The Wave‘s tone, which is on just as much crack as the characters themselves might as well be. Basically, Frank finds a massive loophole analyzing the death of a firefighter with life insurance that would prevent the law firm from paying out millions of dollars, with him set to present his findings the next morning. It’s going to be the biggest day of his professional career, and while he initially does plan on having a relaxing night at home with his aforementioned nagging wife, he decides to give in to his coworker Jeff (Donald Faison’s) urge for celebration. Their adventure takes them from a local club to a house party where they meet two women along the way, Natalie and Theresa (Katia Winter and Sheila Vand respectively) as the group eventually crosses path with Tommy Flanagan’s Aeolus, the dealer of an unknown substance that triggers an immediate blackout followed by hallucinatory side effects while coming down throughout the day.
Frank’s wallet is missing, his bank account is completely drawn, Theresa (the girl he was connecting with due to opposites attracting) is missing, his wife is under the impression the money is going to a mistress, and all of a sudden the drug starts bouncing him back and forth through time. Sometimes he is transported to an ethereal dreamlike state lying down in a grassy field next to Theresa having serious conversations about what he must do. If it’s still not clear that Frank must become a good person, all around town are homeless people and electronic signs allude to today being the most important day of his life.
Points for originality are absolutely a given, but it’s hard to go too far because there’s never any sense that The Wave is establishing and following any kind of rules to its sci-fi premise. Frank just happens to be thrust at the point in time where he needs to be, sometimes multiple times to ensure he makes the correct decision. There’s also a side plot with another hotheaded drug dealer that devolves into silly shenanigans while taking up too much time. The Wave is nowhere near as smart as director Gille Klabin (this is his directorial debut, using a script from Carl W. Lucas) thinks it is; the ending can be seen coming from the beginning, and when it does arise it is executed blandly. Still, this is a wild trip that manages to maintain interest based on urgency and overly stylized, manic presentation.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com