What was writer/director Richard E. Grant thinking with a name like Wah-Wah? It makes perfect sense in context of the story, but as a name, it is just awful. Grant is typically an actor (Corpse Bride, Bright Young Things) but stepped behind the camera for a semi-autobiographical tale. Wah-Wah is one of those generic art films. It has an amazing cast (Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson, Julie Walters, and Celia Imrie) and is a tale about some family drama set against the backdrop of a historical event. In this case, the setting is 1969, and the British are getting ready to exit their rule in Swaziland, in South East Africa. Grants alter-ego, Ralph Compton (Nicholas Hoult, The Weather Man, About A Boy) deals with his dysfunctional family while the British citizens stage Camelot for the queen.
The title derives from the weird way that many of the British speak to each other. Maybe it's just for amusement, but many of the rich upper crust Brits use odd baby talk, which Ralph finds much amusement in. The other pastimes for these idle rich are alcohol and adultery. As a child, Ralph saw this first hand. His mother Lauren (Richardson, The Phantom of the Opera, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) is cheating on his father Harry (Byrne, Assault on Precinct 13, P.S.), and leaves him. Flash forward a few years and Harry is now seeing American Ruby (Watson, Corpse Bride, The Proposition), and is a barely functioning alcoholic.
Harry's drunken rages are devastating. He becomes violent and spiteful, and has little memory of his words and actions towards Ruby and Ralph. It eats away at Ralph, who is just a kid trying to grow up. The reappearance of Lauren causes additional stress upon the family, as well as scandal in the community. Apparently, adultery is okay as long as nobody talks about it. Divorce is not okay. There's lots of yelling, a bit of crying, and a bunch of upturned noses, and it all seems so fake. This is not a slight on Grant's life, it is just that Wah-Wah is not that involving.
The story does not have a cohesive feel to it. Instead, it feels like a series of vignettes, and more of a character examination than a plot that goes from point A to point B. The acting is good, but it's hard to say whether it is because of the script and director of just the sheer caliber of the talent involved. Wah-Wah seems so generic. The characterizations are a bit eccentric, but are more sketches than complete characters. Yes, with the handover of Swaziland their lives are changing, but everything feels a bit artificial.
|Mongoose Rates It: Okay.|
|1 hour, 37 minutes, Rated R for some language and brief sexuality.|
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