Instead of getting together over Christmas this year, my family decided to take a trip to Palm Springs, CA over New Years. There were 10 of us total (my brother and his wife were unable to make it). We planned to do some sightseeing around town and just spend time together as a family. In my research of activities around the Palm Springs area, I discovered that the Palm Springs International Film Festival was going to start at the end of our stay there. I spent time reading about and watching trailers for all the films scheduled to show on January 2 (the only day I would be able to attend). The film “Walter” immediately grabbed my attention. Obviously the fact that William H Macy is in it piqued my interest. (because let’s be real, who doesn’t love him?) More than that though, it was the story that intrigued me. Here was a guy, Walter, who believes he is a son of God and has the power to determine if people were going to heaven or hell.
When January 2 arrived, I was so excited. This girl from Minnesota has never done anything like a film festival before. I love all types of movies, but especially ones with unique story lines. I headed to the Camelot Theater early to get in line. The evening air was cold to the native Californians. For me, though, the 57 degrees felt great! When it was time to proceed in, I was incredibly psyched.
I tagged along with two other girls that were near me in line and sat with them towards the front of the auditorium. I scurried back out to the lobby to make a quick bathroom stop. In the hallway I was awestruck to run into Amber Stevens West and Andrew J West (who plays Walter in the film). They were very pleasant. After going back into the theater and telling the girls who I had just seen, I went back out to the lobby with one of them to get autographs and pictures with them. It was so so thrilling!
Then it was time for the film “Walter” to start! So exciting! In the movie, we are introduced to Walter (played by Andrew J West), a theater ticket taker (say that 10 times fast). He is an odd character that has difficulty with social interactions. He shuffles his feet as he walks and keeps his eyes glued to the floor. Walter has a crush on Kendall (played by Leven Rambin), a girl who works concessions. Unfortunately, Walter cannot find the way to express how he feels to her. Vince (played by Milo Ventimiglia), another theater employee likes to call Walter names like “stupidfuck” and give him crap for his inability to interact. The shift manager at the theater, “Corey” (played by Jim Gaffigan), gives off the impression he would rather be anywhere but there. Walter’s home life consists of a strict routine. He does not get out of bed until all three of his set alarms go off. His mother Karen (played by Virginia Madsen) makes him eggs for every meal. She helicopter-mothers Walter, always asking if he feels okay. She washes, irons, and lays out Walter’s clothes every day.
One day when taking tickets (in the process telling the customers if they’re going to heaven or hell), Walter notices Greg in line (played by Justin Kirk). We find out that Greg is a ghost. He comes to Walter to find out if he’s going to heaven or hell. Walter is unable to get a read on Greg. Supposedly Greg shot himself 10 years prior and has been in limbo ever since. Greg continues to ‘stalk’ Walter and takes him to a church where his wife Allie (played by Neve Campbell) is rehearsing for her wedding to a man named Darren. (played by Brian White). Walter and Allie seem to recognize each other. In a flashback we see a young Walter (played by Nathaniel Semsen) in a hospital waiting room with his dad, Jim (played by Peter Facinelli). Young Walter watches Jim talking to a nurse, who happens to be this Allie. Because Walter is troubled about seeing a ghost, he starts going to a therapist. He goes to Dr. Corman (played by William H Macy). He is an unconventional therapist that seems eager to label Walter as crazy, asking “what kind of crazy are you?”
Through his interaction with Greg, Walter discovers they have a connection. Without revealing too much, the audience then sees Walter come to terms with the past. He goes on a journey of emotions. We see Walter become less isolated and more a part of the world. Walter no longer shuffles as he walks. He becomes more confident and sure of himself. He is able to easily communicate with Kendall. It is also through this transformation that Walter ceases to “judge” people he comes in to contact with.
As a viewer of this film, I found myself laughing many times throughout the movie. When the change in Walter occurs, I found myself crying with empathy. The whole cast is remarkable in this film. While Walter is the lead character, the rest of the supporting roles hold just as much depth and substance. It is through the people around him that Walter is able to go through his transformation. Director Anna Mastro does an incredible job of depicting this story in an authentic way. There is nothing forced. The music selections by Dan Romer also plays a significant role in showing us the story of Walter.
I appreciated that there wasn’t constant swearing throughout the film. The writer, Paul Shoulberg, doesn’t resort to the adage that “sex sells”. This movie soars by having a unique storyline and witty lines. In this day and age of cinema, it takes courage and guts to not rely on cliche elements. “A film is, or should be, more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.” (Stanley Kubrick). This is what I take away from Walter. If you’re not afraid to feel, then you too would love this movie.
After the credits rolled at this screening, there was a short Q&A session. Director Anna Mastro, several of the producers, actors Virginia Madsen, Andrew J West, Pamela Shaw, and Nathaniel Semsen answered questions from the audience.
After the Q&A, I HAD to go meet Director Anna Mastro, Virginia Madsen, and talk to Andrew J West and Amber Stevens West again. They were all so nice. It was the coolest experience ever. I can’t wait for Walter to be released to theaters and hopefully it will come to Minnesota! Everyone involved with Walter did such an amazing job. It is truly something special to see great art in its purest form.
(this is just an account of my experience seeing this film. I do not profess to be an expert movie reviewer)
link to movie trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dW3eDVmsrkA