By Pete Barell
Arts and Entertainment Editor
Graphic novel adaptations have often dealt with serious, culturally relevant themes. In 2007’s “Persepolis,” we saw how Iranian society limits freedom of expression. “Watchmen” in 2009 posited questions regarding war, being a vigilante and utilitarianism. Originally adapted in Spain, Paco Roca’s award-winning “Wrinkles,” released in 2011, digs into problems of age, particularly memory loss and the sometimes- shaky morality of homes for the elderly. The animated film has recently been remade in English, with Martin Sheen taking the lead role of Emilio, a man who is reluctant to admit that he can’t take care of himself anymore.
Emilio’s family brings him to an elderly home, where he soon meets his flamboyant roommate Miguel (Matthew Modine). They take a tour of the facility, where Emilio is soon exposed to the twisted underbelly of his situation – several babbling, hapless folks at the home are kept “upstairs,” where they reside in a constant state of confusion. Emilio discovers that Miguel has been swindling money out of their delirious peers, and they have a falling out. Eventually, though, they develop a pact to keep both of them from being sent upstairs, no matter what it takes.
Wrinkles” is very much an adult film – expect many old-person sex jokes, drab musings on mortality and cursing. It plays out in a psychological way like Milos Forman’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” but in a retirement home, with a constant sense that the characters are being manipulated, and herded around like soon-to-be-dead cattle. The halls of the elderly home feel like a labyrinth, Emilio discovering the dark realities of the place in the monotony of his stay. We see how every day he eats the same meals, sees the same people and falls into an oppressive routine. Emilio’s alienation becomes even more apparent when his family visits for Christmas, and seems oddly careful, at a distance as if he is a child. The sad moments outweigh the humor of the film, in a somewhat off-balanced way.
The fairly-simplistic animation style allows for a loose, free-wheeling expression of memory loss and old age – the filmmaker is free to swiftly move between flashbacks and nearly hallucinatory moments. Emilio and Miguel have an interesting chemistry, see-sawing between distrust and camaraderie. Some of the sadder moments of the film are disarming, and suck the fun away just as quick as it arrives. While it has funny moments, “Wrinkles” can feel like a heaving, depressing sloth.
“Wrinkles,” was directed by Ignacio Ferrera, from a screenplay written by Ferrera with Roca. It opened on July 4 at New York City’s IFC Center on 323 Avenue of the Americas, and will be followed by a DVD and digital release on July 15.