Under Review: ‘Waking Madison’


What is real? What is sane? These are questions raised in the recently-released-to-DVD movie “Waking Madison.” The main character, Madison Walker, must face these questions and battle her own psyche.

The film follows Madison, played by Sarah Romer (“Disturbia,” “Asylum”), as she has isolated herself in her apartment. She has decided to give herself 30 days to truly find herself — or she will end her life. The windows get covered, the door gets boarded, it’s just Madison and a video camera. The movie bounces along time-lines as we see Madison in her apartment, at her parents’ house, as well as in flashbacks and in a hospital interacting with her therapist and fellow patients.

One of the patients Madison encounters, Margaret (played by Taryn Manning of “Your Name Here” and “The Speed Of Thought”) is a very angry person who does not respond well to authority. Another, much more meek, patient, Alexis (played by Imogen Poots of “Solitary Man” and “V for Vendetta”) is very childlike in nature and sensitive to the world around her, especially when it comes to Margaret’s bullying. And then we have Grace, played by Erin Kelly (“Loving Annabelle”), who is very kind to Madison, she just happens to be a sex addict.

But the most influential person at the hospital is Madison’s therapist Elizabeth, played by Elisabeth Shue (“Hamlet 2,” “Hide And Seek”). Her mission is to get Madison the help she needs in a way that is accommodating to Madison’s resistance to the truth. Outside the hospital, Madison must deal with the issues stemming from her parents, played by Will Patton (“Armageddon,” “Entrapment”) and Frances Conroy (“United States of Tara,” “Die, Mommie, Die”).

The entire cast brought something to the table, very well rounded as a whole. Sarah Roemer has a whole Gwyneth Paltrow thing going on, which totally works, and she cycles through the emotional spectrum with ease. Elisabeth Shue is empathetic and believable, which is always good when playing a therapist. Imogen Poots is sweet and you can’t help but ache for her. Erin Kelly plays the “easy” girl very well, making it hard to believe she’s NOT an actual sex addict. And Taryn Manning, oh Taryn, she really is the comedic backbone of the film, whether intentional or not. Comic relief in a serious flick is always a balancing act, but Taryn is just fun to watch, period.

Visually, there are some amazing cues and metaphors and hints throughout the film (which was directed by Katherine Brooks). Some are blatant and some are so subtle you have to watch the movie several times before picking them up. From the walls, to the floors, to religious elements, to unicorns, numbers and the velveteen rabbit, “Waking Madison” is never visually stunted. It’s like a big movie version of I Spy. Backing up the visuals is the music, which is eerie and falls right into place at the moments it needs to. I always appreciate when the look and sound of a film compliment each other without you being aware of it.

The audience in this type of film is left pretty much on their own to draw up conclusions and motives for the characters. The film premiered this year at the Newport Beach Film Festival and is now available on DVD. Being that the film is readily available via various internet services as well as DVD, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s one of those cuddle up with a blanket and a snack type flicks, perfect for a rainy day.

Waking Madison” is not about action and special effects and all of that, it’s a movie with purpose and heart. It may not be some people’s cup of tea, as there are taboo subjects tackled, but isn’t that where curiosity hides? The film is rated R for language and adult themes.

On the Jess-O-Meter, “Waking Madison” gets an “I know you are but what am I?”

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