Marcel the Shell with Shoes On is not some tongue twister that I am going to try and get you to say three times fast, it is the latest film from the studio that brought us the epic that is Everything Everywhere All at Once. After absolutely loving Everything Everywhere and upon seeing the trailer for Marcel the Shell as part of the MIFF programme, I was dying to see it!
Directed by Dean Fleischer Camp, the film is set as a mockumentary through the eyes and camera lens of a documentary film maker. Portrayed by Camp, the character aptly named Dean, moves into an old house in Los Angeles where he discovers Marcel the Shell (Jenny Slate) living alone with his grandmother, Nanna Connie (Isabella Rossellini). Dean decides to film the daily life of Marcel and begins to learn about the culture and daily struggles of a Shell. Dean even catches Nanna tending to her garden and vegetable patch.
Throughout the experience, Marcel reveals that an entire community of Shells. This includes Marcel’s long-lost family that went missing after the previous occupants moved out. Dean sees an opportunity after a video of Marcel goes viral and convinces Marcel to use the powers of the internet to try and find the missing shell folk.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On not only stars Dean Fleisher Camp and Jenny Slate as Dean and Marcel respectively, they also co-wrote the story and screenplay together. Along with this they also created their own characters and co-produced the film. And like many mockumentary television shows that I adore so much such as Parks and Recreation and The Office US, Marcel the Shell with Shoes On has a very subtle comedic narrative. The very first interaction between Marcel and Dean is utterly hilarious but also sweet and innocent at the same time.
Marcel The Shell with Shoes On started out as a stop-animation short film and was also created by Camp and Slate. It was uploaded to YouTube in 2010 and has now amassed over 33 million views. There is some unique synergy there of a film about a shell and a YouTube video that goes viral that started out as a real viral sensation. I just hope that this film stands the test of time and does not fall by the wayside like many viral sensations do.
There is so much that I adore about this film. The stop-animation is flawless and could be easily passed as real-life action. The writing is wholesome and hilarious at the same time. But it also has a heart-warming and heart-breaking underlying story that really tugs at the heart strings. It manages to send a very important message that the hardest decisions for someone to make are also the best for those that you care about deeply. The film touches on all kinds of emotions, including grief. There is also a trigger warning for domestic violence and whilst not actually shown, you can hear it and see the impact it has on the Shells living in the house. Whilst confronting, it sent a very strong and powerful message to the audience.
All three main actors are equally as brilliant as each other. Isabella Rossellini as the proud yet aging Nanna Connie is sweet and humble. Dean Fleischer Camp as his character Dean is inquisitive yet not overly intrusive as the ‘documentary filmmaker’. Dean is also very supportive of his new friend and is not afraid to show Marcel some harsh truths. And of course, Jenny Slate as Marcel is sweet and innocent, but also determined, resilient, and most of the time does not even know what he is saying is utterly hilarious. I adored this character so much and I hope to see Marcel again. I don’t know how or where, but I just want to see him again! Perhaps a series of short stories?
I was drawn to Marcel the Shell with Shoes On by the wholesomeness of the trailer and left with a heart overflowing with happiness. There is so much to love about this film, you will just have to watch it for yourself.
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On was screened in Australia as part of the 2022 Melbourne International Film Festival. Unfortunately, it not currently available on streaming services in Australia, however you might be able to buy a copy digitally via an American service via Amazon, Google Play, or iTunes.
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