Wah-Wah

"OK"

Wah-Wah Review


The obvious risk with autobiographical films is that audiences just might not in the end be interested in the same sort of story that the filmmaker wants to tell about himself. So it is with Wah-Wah, written and directed by Richard E. Grant, who based it on his own childhood growing up in Swaziland in the years leading up to the end of British rule - Grant might want to focus most on the film's dysfunctional (though fun in its own way) family and its effect on his young stand-in, but viewers may be left wondering what's going on outside that melodrama. It's a big world out there, and Grant only gives us teasing glances at it.

The boy at the center of everything is Ralph Compton, 11 years old in the film's preamble, in which he watches (once literally, from the back seat) as his mother Lauren (Miranda Richardson) screws a married man and then takes off with him. The divorce proves ugly and Ralph is sent off to boarding school, leaving his devastated father Harry (Gabriel Byrne) behind, fending off the occasional advance from local females. The film starts properly three years later with the return home of Ralph, this time played by Nicholas Hoult, sprouted quite a bit from his About a Boy days. Ralph comes back to find Harry just remarried, this time to an American stewardess he's known for six weeks, Ruby (Emily Watson). She's a breath of warm air, waltzing right into this snobbish little colonial backwater and immediately breaks practically every one of their thousand little etiquettes - night and day to the waspish, scathing Lauren. But yet it's not enough to keep Harry from hitting the bottle hard. Harry drinks, Ruby frets, Ralph fumes, and occasionally Lauren returns just to stir things up to an even higher pitch.

The backdrop to all the drama inside the Compton house (a cozy little colonial cottage, if you like that sort of thing) is the fact that it's 1969 and the sun is about to set on this corner of the British Empire. The colonials are about to take down the Union Jack and hand the country back to the Swazis - Princess Margaret is coming to do the honors. The problem being that nobody seems to know what they're going to do after Independence. The other problem being that Grant's script (adapted from parts of his With Nails autobiography) doesn't really address this part of the story in any depth. There's some perfunctory noise made about Independence, and some easy fun is had at the expense of the clueless colonials, who decide to mark the occasion by putting on an amateur performance of Camelot in a Waiting for Guffman-esque subplot. It's hard to tell what the tone is through the parts of the film not dealing with the Compton's dysfunctionality, as it seems to sway somewhere between terribly relevant drama (the Patrick Doyle score is far more serious than the subject matter deserves) and straight farce.

Quite serious script and tone problems aside, the film at least shows Grant to be an excellent director of actors, all of whom deliver wonderfully warm, natural performances (this is ironic, given that as a performer, Grant has tended to shrill caricatures, nothing close to which you'll find here). The usually dour Byrne has a surprisingly light touch here, playing a generally decent man who turns monstrous with drink but returns quickly to his winking, jolly self in the morning. Watson is nothing short of fantastic, wearing her big, broad American accent like a bullhorn, scattering all before her. Together they make for a smart and likeable couple, the kind of parents one can actually see a child suffering through some truly horrendous domestic scenes in order to stay with.

Given how much raw material there is to go on, it's surprising that Wah-Wah doesn't feel meatier than it does. It's a flippant and confused film, striving for dabs of comedy here, some lashes of drama over there, and rumbling to a close with some shameless twanging of the heartstrings. It's a story not quite worthy of those on screen who are telling it.

Reviewed at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.

Have a whiskey, little man.



Wah-Wah

Facts and Figures

Run time: 120 mins

In Theaters: Friday 2nd June 2006

Box Office USA: $0.2M

Distributed by: Samuel Goldwyn Films

Production compaines: Wah Film Productions Ltd., Reeleyes Film, Scion Films, Loma Nasha

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Fresh: 36 Rotten: 32

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Harry Compton, as Ruby Compton, as Gwen Traherne, as Ralph Compton - 14 years, as Lauren Compton, as Lady Riva Hardwick, Zac Fox as Ralph Compton - 11 years, as Charles Bingham, as June Broughton, John Matshikiza as Dr. Zim Mzimba, as Vernon, John Carlisle as Sir Giffard Hardwick, Mathokoza Sibiya as Dozen, Sindisiswe Nxumalo as Regina, Michael Richard as Tobias, Caroline Smart as Taj, as John Traherne, as Monica, Sibusiso Mamba as Father Ndlovu, Tony Hatton as Mr. Parker, Clare Marshall as Mrs. Malaga, Kim Borrell as Bunny

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.