Fantastic Fest Review: THE WAVE Is A Chaotic Head Trip
The Wave is the feature directorial debut from Gille Klabin, and it takes you on a chaotic head trip across space and time to show you the harmony of the universe. This vibrant and jittery romp is one part buddy comedy and one part psychedelic quest, wrapped up in an existential adulthood crisis that is punctuated by dazzling visuals and comedic twists.
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 is a dizzying and frenetic parable about doing the right thing that leans a little too heavily on its drug and dream logic as a safety net. It often feels like it’s making up the rules as it goes along, which may turn off viewers who need to make immediate sense of The Wave’s madness. It also has the tendency to move at a rate of speed that’s liable to leave some viewers in the dust — and that’s well before time travel comes into play.
It’s essentially Alice in Wonderland in the style of Crank with notes of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, John Dies at the End, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Dude Where’s My Car? At its best, it’s an energetic and trippy romp; at its worst, it’s a hazy, adrenaline-pumping jumble of nonsensical psychedelic sensory overload. Screenwriter Carl W. Lucas tries to give The Wave’s narrative some meaning, but it gets lost somewhere in the excessive narcotic fog. The use of Deus Ex Machina storytelling here feels a bit lazy, and it doesn’t give us much to latch onto or take away.
Luckily, The Wave has a lot to offer visually, thanks to Klabin’s frenetic direction. He embraces the narrative’s drug-like qualities with brazen style and assaults the viewer with a barrage of hallucinogenic camerawork. Aaron Grasso also provides some really nice sun-baked and neon-drenched cinematography that gives the film an added visual pop. There’s a few oddball sequences — like the wonderfully surreal rotoscoped “mad tea-party” — but the hazy and carefree narrative allows room for a lot of experimentation. It’s not always successful, but there’s never really a dull moment either.
The performances give the film a lot of charisma, which helps it get by. Justin Long dials in a solid performance and trips out hard as Frank. The role really required him to show a lot of range, and he really stepped up to the challenge. It’s also really nice to Donald Faison on screen. He plays Frank’s co-worker Jeff, and he and Long have irresistible chemistry and a lot of fun interplay. Faison tends to steal every scene he’s in, but Tommy Flanagan has an amazing cameo as the eccentric drug-dealer who kicks things into high gear.
Overall, The Wave confounds as much as it entertains. It’s a lot of confident style that is both sharply realized and slightly regurgitated. It feels very familiar and doesn’t offer much nuance outside of its presentation. It feels a bit more like a collection of images and visual experimentations than a fully realized story, but The Wave takes you on a decent ride that may have you reeling in a time-altering head trip.
Recommendation:The Wave is a trip worth taking only for those who prefer strong visuals and confident direction over a cohesive story. The drug-addled, adrenaline-pumping scattershot of psychedelic sensory overload won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
Rating: 3 drug-induced kisses outta 5.
What do you think? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!