To exist is a relatively mundane act. You go wake up, get dressed, go to work, walk the dog, go to sleep, rinse, repeat. There is some comfort to be found in this routine, but there is also anxiety. Without some outlet for spontaneity, we become stagnant, stale, drying out like the stale bread you left out for too long on the counter. In his feature film debut The Wave, Gille Klabin tackles what happens when one becomes too complacent and the consequences and beauty of leaping out of that comfort zone.
Frank (Justin Long, Drag Me To Hell) is an insurance lawyer whose success rides on shoving poor families into bankruptcy. Just recently he found a discrepancy that denied a widow her husband’s $4 million life insurance policy, saving his company money but effectively ruining a woman’s life. He goes out on the town with his coworker Jeff (Donald Faison, Scrubs) to celebrate, meeting Theresa (Sheila Vand, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) along the way.
“…shockingly deep and thought-provoking for a film about taking party drugs from a stranger.”
At a house party, Frank and Theresa take some kind of drug out of a mysterious vial, given to them by an even more mysterious man in a luxurious fur coat, sporting a Scottish accent (Tommy Flanagan, Sons of Anarchy). This hallucinogen alters Frank’s perception of time and space, sending him on a brightly colored, confusing, and occasionally violent journey that helps him figure out what it means to exist in the universe.
The Wave at first seems like another movie about a wealthy, privileged man who hates his life. His wife is portrayed as the typical nag who hates his guts, a woman who exists solely to remind him of how worthless he is. Admittedly the beginning of the film feels derivative, annoying, and insulting. Do we really need another movie about how a rich dude hates his wife and just wants to be free?
Thankfully, The Wave is playing with that overdone plot and transitions into something a little deeper. Instead of being another Judd-Apatow-early-2000s rip-off, it becomes an interesting look at the current state of economics and the people that perpetuate the nightmarish vision that late-stage capitalism has propelled us in to. It is not about Frank chasing his manic pixie dream girl. He thinks it is but comes to the realization that he is a speck in the universe, nothing more. There is more than just his small existence, and he is merely a cog in the machine of life. It is shockingly deep and thought-provoking for a film about taking party drugs from a stranger.
Justin Long truly rides The Wave as Frank, who is the older version of every character he’s ever played. But this is not a bad thing! Long thrives when playing the anxious, uncomfortable, jittery, yet hopeful nerd who exudes a hot guy energy I can’t resist. I understand this is not for everyone, but this movie is honestly way sexier than I expected, and not just from Tommy Flanagan in a fur coat growling his lines at me. There’s a strange charisma that Long exudes as he settles into conversation with Vand, the kind of energy that comes from a guy who’s not afraid to joke around and be his own person. I am perhaps alone in this specific attraction to The Wave, but Long uses his nervous energy to create a strangely likable character.
“While it occasionally falls into crass comedy and frustrating gender stereotypes, The Wave does try to have a deeper meaning about the consequences of our actions”
Like any movie about taking drugs, The Wave boasts colorful, mind-numbing visuals that connote Frank’s hellish trip down the rabbit hole. Interspersed between the typical neon lights of pink and purple are scenes that feel truly unique, such as Theresa standing in a vast white desert wearing a flowing gown, or Frank’s coworkers slowly changing colors and screaming in his face during a meeting. No one visual style is utilized to represent Frank’s trip, which makes The Wave all the more surprising; this is not your typical trip and therefore shouldn’t feel cohesive with the expected aesthetics of a drug film.
Along with The Wave’s trippy visuals is its pounding techno score that assaults your eardrums and getting your heart pumping. Even in the scores quieter moments, it never stops wobbling to remind you that there’s something strange about to happen. In the scenes where it seems like Frank is back to normal and in the right headspace, the music begins to slowly creep in to remind the viewer that nothing is what it seems. While it is unsurprising that a movie about hallucinogenic drugs would feature a soundtrack to match its kaleidoscopic visuals, it is masterfully used in The Wave to match each scene’s tone.
The Wave could so easily be one of those movies where you laugh a guy who takes too much acid, forgets what time is, and blunders through 90 minutes of scenery making an absolute idiot of himself. While it occasionally falls into crass comedy and frustrating gender stereotypes, The Wave does try to have a deeper meaning about the consequences of our actions and doing things because “they’re our job”. While perhaps not a groundbreaking film, Klabin’s first film is entertaining, funny, pretty to look at it, and features some talent that deserves more work. It is the perfect film to pop in on Friday night. So get ready for some indulgence and get ready to ride The Wave.