In indie cinema there’s a very good opportunity to address themes in a way that wouldn’t be accepted in studio films. Comedy is a large canvas, where almost everything is accepted. It doesn’t mean you should do anything, because scripts should always remain tight and story-oriented. Why experiment on stuff that doesn’t need to be changed?
In Waking Up Dead, there’s a certain scene that made me squirm. It disturbed me to the point where I felt ashamed at some point. I let go at some point and stayed with the story, accepting it was just a glitch. Hours after, it still feels offensive but it’s also essential to the story. This risky move is the reason why (sometimes) indie cinema must be celebrated.
Waking Up Dead is a series of vignettes. A personal journey of a young man who faces failure, redemption, death, disappointment, etc. Everything is a cautionary tale for him and he doesn’t learn. He just absorbs the events as part of a large plan that he hasn’t recognized and honestly he couldn’t care less about.
Of course the film gets thoroughly serious at some point and comedy becomes tragedy in a matter of minutes. I still can’t come to a conclusion about how the film made me think. It’s a rushed execution of a concept that lingers on the unnecessary and would work better as a short feature. But who am I to say?
Danny Maldonado is an actor who can’t make ends meet. He gets rejected from every single perspective. As much as he should learn from experiences, lessons come in the form of strangers, relatives and friends who offer their views on what Danny must do. Waking Up Dead is repetitive and monotonous when it shouldn’t be. This life journey, as short as it is, should feel more natural.
Yes, it’s also funny sometimes with Gabriel Sousa giving his best in a lead performance that requires lots of him. Unfortunately, he’s forced with a script with these artificial ups and downs that add nothing to the story. Cameos are interesting, but this is Sousa’s show and he leads every second of the movie.
In the end, the film takes a darker turn and Maldonado trip takes a turn for the absolute worst. It’s not that it’s unexpected because at some point you can guess where it all goes. Terracino, in the director’s chair, makes sure you look in the end. And once you look, you won’t turn away your eyes.
Waking Up Dead is a flawed Hollywood fable with too many punchlines, excessive nudity and lots of yelling. Its story is relevant in the end, but getting there isn’t easy. The trip, as funny as it may appear to be, isn’t very easy to complete.