Friday, May 05, 2006

Moviewatch: "Wah-Wah"

Director: Richard E. Grant
Fien Print Rating (Out of 100): 50
In a Nutshell: Ah, Wawa. Many a morning in college did you over-sugared coffee beverages help me make it to an 8 a.m. class or to my grueling work-study job. That's a little joke that will mostly have meaning to people with North Atlantic backgrounds. Not funny? Oh well. This "Wah-Wah" is actually Richard E. Grant's feature debut as a writer-director, a dark, autobiographical tale about Grant's time growing up in Swaziland at the end of British rule there. As much as it's a coming-of-age story about growing up with an alcoholic dad and a horrible mom, it's about the ridiculousness of Empire, and the superficiality of British culture in decline (the title relates vaguely to mockery of cutesy British conversational crutches like "Toodle Pip!"). And it's a movie that desperately needs more of the dry wit that Grant has brought to the better parts of his work since his screen debut in "Withnail & I" (a biting cult classic that the British love and that a disturbing percentage of Young Americans -- even those who claim to love cinema -- have no awareness of). Given that the film's trailer attempts to accentuate the few bits of wacky humor that there are, the film's true tone may perplex. Anybody who's ever seen Grant interviewed knows what a remarkable storyteller he is, so it's shocking how static and predictable this story is. As a writer, Grant has written juicy parts for Gabriel Byrne and Miranda Richardson as the parents of his proxy (well played by Nick Hoult of "About a Boy"), though several of the old actors fall into performative over-indulgence. It also almost goes without saying that viewers who enter with little knowledge of Swaziland or British occupation in Africa will be a little in the dark as well.

Check on Friday, May 12 for my review.

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